Issues for women to consider when estate planning

The benefits of estate planning for women are many. For example, you can ensure that your children, after your passing, avoid court, avoid estate taxes and receive the property you wanted them to.

Priorities for estate planning tend to change with age. For example, as a young mother, you may want to ensure that you appoint a guardian to provide for your minor children. On the other hand, if you are about to retire, you may want to make sure that you have adequate resources to help you through long-term care if that becomes necessary. In many ways, estate planning can affect women more than it does men. Women tend to live longer than men, and women also tend to marry older spouses. As such, there can be special issues for women, no matter their income levels, to consider.

Put yourself first

That is, make decisions because you want these particular choices and not because your spouse wants them. For example, if you trust Person A to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated, but your spouse prefers another person you distrust, you have every right to make the decision you feel most comfortable with.

Similarly, put your wishes into writing. If you want your engagement ring to go to Child A, that needs to be in writing. Orally promising it to the child is not enough. The same principle applies to many second or third marriages. In these cases, it is best to make specific provisions for children from previous relationships rather than leave everything in the hands of a spouse who may outlive you and inherit assets ultimately meant for your children.

Your spouse may die before you do

Your spouse, especially if you married a man older than you, might not outlive you. Thus, when you (or the two of you) go in for estate planning, advocate for your financial health. Ideally, your spouse would already be doing this, but then again, he may not be comfortable contemplating death, and may avoid thinking in terms of, "She will outlive me."

Now is a great time to start estate planning. An attorney can help identify your priorities and wishes.