An experienced New York estate planning attorney has likely come to appreciate how asset preparation issues are particularly important for women. Demographics play a role in this reality. Women tend to outlive men, and a wife is more likely than a husband to be left alone after a disability or death. In addition, men frequently take charge of handling family financial affairs while alive and risk leaving their wives in an unfamiliar position if preparation is not conducted ahead of time.
Yet polls continue to reveal that it is only a minority of women who admit prioritizing estate planning or familiarizing themselves with family financial issues. A Forbes article yesterday discussed this disconnect between the importance of financial preparation for wives and their prioritization of it. The story mentioned that women are much more likely to experience a decline in their standard of living following the death of a spouse because of their longer life expectancy, tendency to marry older spouses, and lower lifetime earning average. Interestingly, this also means that wives frequently have the last word about where a couple’s assets ultimately end up–either to the family, charity, or tax coffers–particularly when the family had conducted no prior planning.
This makes it essential for women to become equal participants in the estate planning process or to take charge of the process if no preparation has yet been completed. While talking about mortality is rarely easy or light hearted, it is a topic that cannot be avoided in the end. The story’s author suggests that it is often helpful to have a series of conversations about the topic instead of trying to cover everything at once. Of course every couple will have their own ways of communicating. However, it may be useful to mention the need to consider the children, refer to someone who recently passed away, or bring up a news article that discussed estate plans.
Our New York estate planning lawyers have worked on many facets of the process that disproportionately affect women. For example, a family home is exempt from Medicaid while both spouses are living. However, if a husband dies, the wife must make special arrangements to keep the home from being used for long-term care costs, such as creating a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust. In addition, Caregiver Agreements are more frequently used by daughters to compensate them for the job of caring or boarding an aging parent or to receive a lump-sum distribution to help provide for that care.
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