Women and Estate Planning

Who would raise your children?
Few prospects are more wrenching than the possibility that young children will be orphaned. Often, parents put off writing a Will because this particular thought is unbearable or couples cannot agree on a potential guardian. Some assume incorrectly that it is enough just to ask a relative or trusted friend to step in if the need arises.

Not formalizing the arrangements and doing some Estate Planning along the way could leave your children in a vacuum. For example, let’s say you are a single or a surviving parent in this group, if you do not have a written document outlining your wishes and protecting your children, a court usually decides who will fill your shoes. A custody battle might erupt or awful as it sounds, no one may even want your children and without financial planning there may not be enough money for your child's (ren) support.

When choosing a guardian, people typically look first to relatives, starting with their own siblings- the child's aunts and uncles. A second choice for some people is their own parents, if they are young enough. Even if certain family members seem like obvious candidates, take into account all the factors involved. Key questions to ask: Am I comfortable with the individual's lifestyle and values? Would my child have to relocate? Can the prospective guardian incorporate my children into his or her household? If I have more than one child, would the guardian be able to keep them together? Does my child already have a relationship and a good rapport with the person?

Here too, you can build in checks and balances - by putting a different person in charge of the money you leave for your child's support. You can name a guardian for the funds, or put them into a Trust and designate a Trustee to spend the money on your child's behalf which is the most viable option. While financial guardianships are a matter of state law and may require court supervision, Trusts are a private matter. A Trust also gives you much more say over how the money is spent and ensures strict adherence to your instructions in your life time, during incapacitation or when the person is no longer there.

Current statistics show that on the average women live six years longer than men; that creates several key differences in end-of life planning issues.

Women face several unique Estate Planning concerns. Females have a longer life expectancy than males, making planning for their financial future more critical, because they will likely survive their husbands, they normally also face pressure from extended families, children and grandchildren regarding their Estate Plans.

A consequence of their survival is a greater obligation to plan their estates properly and in a timely fashion.

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