Most women do not consider estate planning until they are married; however, it is important for women to have an estate plan in place regardless of whether they are married or single. Many women have children without being married; therefore, it is extremely important that they consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure that their children will be taken care of in the event of their death or incapacity. However, even for single women who have no children, estate planning is something they should consider to ensure their final wishes are carried out in the event of their death or incapacity. Below are several estate planning issues that women should discuss with an attorney.
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Married Women vs. Unmarried Women
There are several issues to consider when discussing estate planning that are unique to married women versus unmarried women. For example, a married woman tends to rely, at least in part, on her husband’s income. Without proper estate planning, if a married woman loses her husband early in life, she may experience a significant decrease in her standard of living due to the loss of income. Another issue that married women face is when they are in their second or subsequent marriages. Children from a previous marriage should be considered when deciding how to divide your assets between a blended family. You do not want your children and stepchildren arguing in the event that you and your new husband pass away together or within a very short time of each other.
For unmarried women who are raising children, state law will make decisions for your children if you do not make provisions before your death or incapacitation. You must name a guardian for your child as well as someone to manage your child’s inheritance until he or she reaches a certain age. This may or may not be the same person you want to have physical custody of your child upon your death. Furthermore, if you do not have a will directing how your property should be divided, friends, charities and unmarried partners will not be entitled to inherit from your estate.
Women who are divorced or separated need to update their estate planning documents, including beneficiary designations, as soon as possible to prevent an ex-spouse from making life and death decisions for that person or inheriting assets.
Children, Grandchildren, Parents and Pets
Providing for your loved ones is one of the top reasons for estate planning. If you do not name a guardian for your children, the state will decide who will raise your children in the event of your death or incapacity. Many women do not think about elderly parents; however, you should also make provisions for your aging parents so that they are taken care of if you are no longer able to do so for whatever reason. If you have a special needs child or other dependent who requires special care, you need a plan in place to ensure that they are provided for when you are gone. For women who have four-legged family members (pets), they may also want to provide for the care of their pets in their estate planning documents.
For children, parents or other dependents, additional life insurance may be required to provide for their care after your death. Your attorney may suggest that you establish a trust to provide for the education and care of your dependents.
Business owners should plan for what will happen to their business when they are no longer able to operate the business due to incapacity, retirement or death. This can be done with business succession planning as part of the estate planning process. Protecting your assets is another important element of estate planning. Without a definite plan in place and the proper documents such as a Will or other legal document, the state will decide how your assets are to be divided upon your death. In many cases, state law does not coincide with your wishes.
If there is a charitable cause that you wish to leave money or property to from your estate, you must include these wishes in your estate planning. A charitable organization does not have a legal right to receive property from you upon your death under state law unless you have specifically provided for this bequeath in your estate planning documents.
Death is not the only reason why women need to meet with an attorney to discuss estate planning. If you become incapacitated without an estate plan in place, the state or others will make decisions for you regarding medical care, personal care and the distribution of assets. You may want to consider purchasing long-term care insurance as part of your estate plan to ensure that any expenses or costs of long-term care will be paid if you should become incapacitated. It is very important to take steps now to make a plan so that the state does not take control of your assets and make decisions for you. At a minimum, you should have durable powers of attorney for your assets and health care decisions.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
Whether you are married or single, you should contact an estate planning attorney to discuss your final wishes and to discuss how to ensure your final wishes are carried out in the event of your death or incapacitation. Having the proper estate planning documents in place is the only way to ensure that your loved ones are protected and your final wishes are carried out.
Talk to the estate planning attorneys at Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC. Their experience and knowledge can help you have the peace of mind of knowing not only that you have a plan, but that your plan still creates exactly the legacy that you want. Contact Attorney Daniel J. Krause or Nelson W. Donovan today.
Reach us through our website or call our office at (608) 268-5751 to schedule your confidential, no obligation initial consultation