Silicon Valley Estate Planning Journal

News and Articles from the Law Offices of John C. Martin

Estate Planning for Women

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Estate Planning for

While estate planning is important for everyone, women
especially need to understand estate planning and have a plan of their own in
place. Here are some issues that are of particular interest to women and their
estate planning.

Incapacity. Because women, on average, live longer than men,
there is an increased need to plan for physical and/or mental incapacity that
can occur in later years. Long-term care insurance, purchased in advance, can
help cover these costs and can even help women remain in their homes for as
long as possible. It is also important to plan now to prevent the court from
taking control of finances and of personal care at incapacity. At a minimum,
durable powers of attorney (for both assets and health care decisions) are
needed. A revocable living trust provides excellent protection for assets at
incapacity and contains distribution
instructions at death.

Children, Grandchildren, Parents and Pets. Those raising minor
children need to name a guardian in their will; otherwise, a judge will decide
who will raise them without your input. Provisions need to be included for
aging parents, a child or relative with special needs, pets and other
dependents. (Special planning can provide needed care without jeopardizing valuable
government benefits.) Additional life insurance may be needed to provide for
these loved ones. A gifting program or trust can provide for the education of
grandchildren and future generations.

Charitable Causes. Those who want some or all of their assets
to go to a favorite charitable, religious or educational organization must
include this in their estate planning. Without a valid plan in place, assets
will be distributed by state law—and a charity will not be among the heirs.
Also, proceeds from a life insurance policy can be used to fund various types
of charitable giving at your death.

Protecting a Business and Other Assets. Professional women in
medicine, law and real estate must be concerned about protecting their assets
from lawsuits. Many women are also business owners, and they need to plan for
what will happen to their business when they are no longer involved due to
incapacity, retirement or death. Asset protection planning and business
succession planning can and should be included in the estate planning process.

Married Women. Women who marry tend to choose husbands who are
older, which means they are likely to become widowed. Without proper estate
planning while married, many will see their standard of living reduced during
their retirement years. Those in second marriages need estate planning that
provides for the surviving spouse but does not disinherit children from a
previous marriage. Also, because most married women survive their husbands,
they often have final say over who will ultimately receive the couple’s assets.
Women must take an active role in the couple’s estate planning. Knowledge is
key—an unknowledgeable widow will likely be confused and uncertain, while one
who has participated in the planning process will more easily understand it and
even feel empowered.

Unmarried Women (Never Married, Divorced and Widowed). Without
valid instructions, state law will apply and that means friends, charities and
unmarried partners will not be among your heirs. On the flip side, if you are
divorced or separated, you need to update documents (including beneficiary
designations) as soon as possible to prevent your ex from making life and death
decisions for you or inheriting your assets.

If you have questions or concerns, contact a Palo Alto Estate Planning Attorney today.


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