Long gone are the days when women could passively rely on their husbands to take care of all estate planning needs for the two of them. Women are bringing more assets into relationships now and continue to be a larger and larger part of the workforce. Life expectancy differences between the sexes create unique needs for women and their estates, as well. Here are seven key strategies for women to consider in determining their estate plan.
Have a Plan
The first and always most valuable strategy is to have a plan. If nothing is documented, property passes through intestate succession (for a refresher on Virginia’s intestate succession laws, see my post here), which may or may not be what is desired. Similarly, no written plan provides no guidance on who should serve as executor, trustee, or most importantly, guardian of any minor children. With women still increasingly likely to maintain guardianship after a divorce, putting a plan in place for children is a must.
Put it in Writing
Similarly, women can’t rely on ex-spouses or a co-habitating partner to provide protection. Virginia law presumes divorced couples no longer wish to provide for each other under a Will and may modify terms of the document accordingly. Virginia also has no common law marriage statute. So no matter how long a couple has lived together, Virginia won’t give them the same rights as a married couple. Having an updated plan in place is the best remedy.
Consider Life Expectancy
Because women tend to live longer than men, this creates unique challenges among married couples. A surviving wife obviously can’t rely on her deceased husband for support; an effective Durable Power of Attorney naming an agent will protect her if incapacity issues arise. Similarly, a medical agent must be appointed under an Advance Medical Directive to make health care decisions if she cannot.
Consider a Trust
Even better than a Durable Power of Attorney can be a Revocable Trust. In the case of incapacity, a Revocable Trust can provide even greater protection than a Power of Attorney. And because it can provide for the distribution of property at death, a Trust is often a great solution to estate planning challenges.
Assess Long-Term Care Needs
For women remarrying later in life, assets acquired during a first marriage may be considered available for a second husband’s medical bills. Even a prenuptial agreement wouldn’t exclude those assets from being used to cover medical care. Women in particular should consider long term care policies for their husbands.
Similarly, gifts intended for children through a will may be subject to creditor’s claims or find their way into the hands of a former son- or daughter-in-law. Consider a trust as a means of providing additional assurance your hard-earned assets go to the ones you intend.
Even with assets distributed through a valid Will, there are often sentimental items and gifts intended for a family member or close friend. Ensure these treasured items reach their intended recipient by providing for their disposition specifically.
If you have questions regarding what’s best for your particular situation, call or email Asurest at any time to discuss or set up an appointment. We’ll be happy to walk you through your questions and come up with a plan that works for you.
This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.
Disclaimer: This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Responses to inquiries, whether by email, telephone, or other means, do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create or imply the existence of an attorney-client relationship.