Statistically, women are more likely to outlive their spouse, ultimately leaving them to be the one to pass down the marital assets to children and other beneficiaries. Women also tend to me the caretakers of the family, making them more likely to be concerned with issues such as guardians for minor children and even plans for again parents. Finally, more and more women are becoming entrepreneurs, adding in another important estate planning consideration into an already lengthy list of estate planning components. For these reasons, and more, estate planning for women is important.
The most well-known benefit of executing a Will is knowing that you will not die intestate. If you fail to execute at least a basic Will prior to your death, the California intestate succession laws will decide how your estate assets are distributed. Typically, this means that only a spouse and/or very close relatives will inherit from your estate. Close friends, charities, and more distant relatives will receive nothing from your estate. In addition, executing a Will allows you the only official opportunity you will have to nominate a Guardian for your minor children in the event one is ever needed.
Ultimately, this is a decision you must make after consulting with your estate planning attorney; however, as a general rule, it is usually better for spouses to create plans that work in harmony with one another but that remain separate. Because there is no way to know, with certainty, what the future will bring, you do not want to create an estate plan that is completely dependent on your spouse’s plan to function properly.
Incapacity planning should be part of your estate plan from the beginning because incapacity can strike at any time and to anybody. Without an incapacity plan in place, you have no way of knowing who will make health care decisions for you, who will take over control of your assets, or who will make personal decisions if you cannot make them yourself.
The odds are good that you will outlive your spouse. This makes retirement planning even more important for you as a woman. You need to be certain that you will have sufficient assets and income to live comfortably if your spouse is the first to go. Because retirement planning and estate planning are so closely related, and a change in one plan almost always affects the other plan, it is always best to combine your retirement and estate planning into one cohesive plan.
This is often overlooked by couples. The way in which you title assets can determine whether the asset is required to go through the probate process or is automatically transferred to the surviving spouse upon the death of one spouse. Titling assets as joint owners with rights of survivorship means that the asset will bypass probate upon the death of one owner and that owner’s interest in the asset will transfer directly to the surviving owner (spouse).
Over half of all seniors in long-term care (LTC) rely on Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) to cover the high cost of that care. Again, because you are statistically more likely to outlive your spouse, you need to plan ahead for the possibility that you will one day need LTC. Conversely, Medi-Cal planning is also important to ensure that your spouse does not deplete your entire nest egg with his LTC expenses, leaving you with nothing
I’ve also been asked, “What if I create a joint tenancy with my child?”. This is a very problematic option for estate planning. The problem is, you will avoid probate, but if your child has any personal drama, debts, lawsuits, or judgements against them, predators on the court will be able to reach the joint tenancy property. Also, making your child a joint tenant will give your child the ability to take out loans on the property or refinance.