Every adult should have at least a basic estate plan in place. Exactly what components need to be in that plan will depend on the needs and concerns of the individual creating the plan. Estate planning for couples tends to be different than estate planning for someone who is single while estate planning for parents of minor children is different than for retirees. Likewise, estate planning for women will often focus on very different issues than estate planning for the typical male. This is one of the many reasons why you should always work closely with an experienced California estate planning attorney when creating and/or revising your comprehensive estate plan.
The Need for Estate Planning
Surveys indicate that despite understanding the need to have an estate plan in place, over half of all Americans do not have one in place. Why is an estate plan so important? There are several reasons why you need an estate plan, starting with the wish to prevent the State of California from deciding what will happen to your estate assets when you are gone. In addition, a basic estate plan allows you to decide who will oversee the probate of your estate which can significantly impact the time and money spent on the probate process. Beyond the basics, an estate plan can also address issues such as:
- Incapacity planning
- Tax and probate avoidance
- Medicaid and long-term care planning
- Business succession planning
- Special needs planning
What Is in a Basic Estate Plan?
The foundation of most estate plans is a Last Will and Testament. By creating an executing a Will you avoid the possibility of dying intestate. An intestate estate is simply an estate wherein the decedent failed to leave behind a valid Will. When a person dies intestate, the intestate succession laws of the State of California dictate who will inherit from the estate and in what proportion. Although creating a Last Will and Testament qualifies as creating a basic estate plan, most people choose to include additional tools and strategies in their estate plan. One of the most common additions to the average estate plan is a trust. A trust is a legal agreement whereby you appoint a Trustee to protect and manage assets for the benefit of a third party beneficiary. Trusts can be used to achieve a wide variety of estate planning needs and goals.
Estate Planning for Women – What Is in Your Plan?
If you are a woman, your estate planning objectives and goals may be slightly different than those of your male counterpart. As such, your overall estate plan may also be different. The technical, practical aspect of estate planning is often not much different for a woman than for a man; however, the way that women approach estate planning issues and the goals women often have when creating an estate plan may be different. In general, women tend to be more concerned about providing for everyone else – often to her own detriment. For example, women often focus on providing for children and grandchildren in an estate plan without considering the very real possibility that they will need to provide for themselves during their retirement years. There are more widows than widowers over the age of 65 in the United States. According to the United States Census Bureau, 36 percent of the women over the age of 65 are widowed compared to just 12 percent of the men. To make matters worse, those men likely planned for their own retirement better than the women, which is why so many senior women end up struggling financially.
Taking care of others is certainly admirable; however, not to your own exclusion. As such, estate planning for women needs to put the woman creating the plan first. One way to do that is to take into account the likelihood that you will be alone at some point during your “Golden Years” and to plan accordingly. Steps you may need to take to do that include:
- Ensuring that major assets are properly jointly titled so they will immediately transfer to you after your spouse’s death.
- Having a very clear knowledge of what you will inherit, and what will be owed, when your spouse dies.
- Planning for the possibility that you will need to qualify for Medicaid to help cover long-term care costs.
- Planning for incapacity, both yours and your spouse’s
Estate planning for women does not have to be overly complicated. The more you learn, the more you know – and the more you know the more successful your overall estate plan will be.
To Schedule a Free Consultation
If you are interested in the possibility of working with our firm after learning these facts, please select our “Workshops” tab to RSVP for a free estate planning workshop. At that workshop you will be offered a free one-hour consultation with an attorney: https://collinslawgroup.comseminars/