estate planning for women

6 minute read

Estate Planning for Women: Don't Make These Mistakes

Women often live longer than men, meaning it's important that they can control their estates. Read our guide to Estate Planning for Women for tips and advice.

Women are seemingly always on the go. We are keeping up with work, kids, finding time to spend with a partner, or, even more seldom, finding time for ourselves. There is constantly something, or someone, competing for our attention. We frequently find ourselves trying to carve out time to get everything on our collective to-do lists done. And women are not only checking items off the to-do lists, they are also often the ones creating the to-do lists as well!

While our daily lives are important, it's equally important to plan for the future. Estate Planning is an often-overlooked task widely regarded as an uncomfortable chore. No one wants to think about what life will look like when they are no longer here. Fortunately, Trust & Will makes it easy to protect your assets and provide for your loved ones with a customized Estate Plan, no matter how busy your lives may be.

It’s been proven that women live longer than men, meaning, it’s important for them to understand the in’s and out’s of a proper estate plan. A woman must make it a priority to protect herself, her best interests, her family, and her assets. Below, we will clarify common estate terms and also mistakes that women often make when planning their Estate - and what to do instead.

  1. What is an Estate Plan?

  2. What does an Estate Plan include?

  3. When to update your estate plan

What is an Estate Plan?

An Estate Plan is much more than a Will. It is a comprehensive and complete way to prepare yourself, your assets, and your loved ones for the future. Remember - the first step to creating an Estate Plan is understanding the basics.

A Trust-Based Estate Plan does not force individuals to go through the probate court process, allowing one's assets to pass seamlessly to their beneficiaries while keeping their personal matters out of the public record.

What Does an Estate Plan Include?

  • Revocable Living Trust: The “central hub” of your Estate Plan. Allows you to preserve your estate for your loved ones and keep it out of probate court, avoiding delays in the execution of the Will and additional fees. Set up the management and distribution of your assets during life and after death with a Living Trust.

  • Living Will: Specify what medical treatment you do and do not want administered if you cannot speak for yourself. Appoint a trusted family member or loved one to ensure that your health care wishes are respected.

  • Power of Attorney: Assign someone to manage your personal and business responsibilities if you are incapacitated.

  • Last Will: Your final wishes and arrangements. Appoint an Executor of your Estate to ensure that your beneficiaries receive their inheritance. Name the legal guardians for any children you may have if you or their other parent cannot care for them.

  • Schedule of Assets: An up-to-date listing of all your assets.

A common misconception that people have about Estate Planning is that you need a certain amount of wealth before you put anything in writing. The truth is that Estate Planning is for everyone. You may think you do not have enough assets to justify creating a Living Trust and Will. But once you start taking stock of what you do have, you may surprise yourself.

Assets in an Estate May Include:

  • property: homes, land, and other real estate, including recent appraisals, if you have them

  • vehicles: cars, motorcycles, and boats

  • checking and savings accounts

  • life insurance policies

  • retirement plans: individual retirement accounts and workplace 401(k) plans

  • stocks, bonds, and mutual funds

  • collectibles: art, antiques, trading cards, stamps, coins, etc.

  • family heirlooms: wedding rings, jewelry, and other handmade items

What Happens if You Don't Have an Estate Plan?

The biggest Estate Planning mistake you can make is not having a plan at all. According to a 2020 Gallup poll, just 45 percent of Americans have a Living Will. While the number of those with a Living Will is up 5 percent from a 2005 poll, that still leaves more than half of Americans without an Estate Plan, many of whom are women.

Procrastinating on getting your final wishes together could have negative implications for you and your family's future.

If you were to become seriously ill, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to speak for yourself, it would become your family's responsibility to make some pertinent decisions. What medical treatment you would receive, if extraordinary measures would be used, as well as any final arrangements and distribution of assets.

If you have children, choosing a legal guardian for them could help to avoid a fractured family unit and a costly family court fight.

A comprehensive Estate Plan allows you to account for you and your family's needs, both now and in the future.

When to Update Your Estate Plan

You may have had a Will executed in the past and think it still has you covered. But if circumstances in your life have changed, like marriage, divorce, or the death of a spouse, it is important to amend anything that may be out-of-date. Additionally, estate laws in your state may have changed over the years and it is always wise to ensure that your estate planning is up-to-date.

Life is all about changes, for better or for worse. The following are examples of common life events that should prompt you to revisit and potentially revise your documents. 

  • Regularly: It is recommended that you review your Estate documents every 3 to 5 years —and more often if you are over 60. Even if nothing about your family, career, or living arrangements has changed, the laws that impact your Estate may have. Keeping your documents up-to-date will ensure their validity with banks and other financial institutions.

  • Divorce (or marriage): When your marital status changes, you should take a second look at who is named your Power of Attorney, Executor of Estate, and Trustee of any Trusts in your name. If an ex-spouse is listed as a Beneficiary in your Will, now would be the time to remove them. Do not forget to check any insurance policies or retirement accounts, too.

  • Decline: If there is a noticeable decline in you or your spouse's physical or mental health, you should have your Living Trust and Will handy. Your documents should also include planning for potential long-term care costs, like nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.

  • Diagnosis: After a new diagnosis, whether cognitive or physical, is an ideal time to review your documents and make sure everything still looks good. Tending to this right after a diagnosis, rather than waiting for the decline to set in, will give you time to make some critical decisions regarding your future.

  • Death: The death of a loved one may trigger you to revise your documents. If they were a Beneficiary of your Will, you should remove them. Furthermore, if you received an inheritance from them, you may need to update your assets.

Trying to Do It Yourself

We all know the saying that if you want something done right, you should do it yourself. That is not the best advice when it comes to creating your Will or Trust. Fortunately, Trust & Will makes it easy to plan for the future.

Creating an Estate Plan ensures that your children, pets, assets, final arrangements, and health care decisions will be taken care of exactly as you want them to be. Trust & Will provides legal documents designed by attorneys and customized by you to fit your personal estate plan.

Be confident in knowing that you have done all you can to plan for your future and provide for your loved ones. Get started on your Estate Plan today.