International Women’s Day: Estate Planning for the Modern Woman

March 6, 2019

International Women’s Day, an annual holiday every March 8, celebrates the power of women and pays homage to the many hats that women wear each day. Boss, partner, mother, wife, peace maker, breadwinner, etc. are all titles that apply. In fact, according to the 2018 Financial Wellness Census of Prudential, more than half of American women have become the primary breadwinners in their households. With such reward comes great responsibility. One such task is setting up a proper estate plan. Proper estate planning not only provides peace of mind, but also allows you to care for your family even after you are gone.

Every ounce of knowledge helps, so we have compiled these crucial estate planning tips to ensure you and your loved ones live a secure lifestyle:

Guardian Provisions for your Children through your Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) used to be an important estate-planning document that has been losing in popularity to a Living Trust. These days, Wills offer minimal estate planning protection UNLESS you have minor children.

If you have minor children (those under 18 years of age in Florida), then a Will is critical! In your Will, you can appoint a guardian who will care for your children in case of your death. This reduces lawsuits that arise over custody in cases of sudden or unexpected death. The guardian you choose can be a single individual or a couple. You can also choose primary guardians as well as backup guardians. Note that a guardian for your children can be a different person than the guardian you choose to safeguard any property or money left to them.

Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Surrogate in Case of Your Incapacity

According to the Society of Actuaries, “Women are more likely to have longer periods of chronic disability and more likely to need care in a long-term facility or from a paid caregiver.” A Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Surrogate allow you to choose someone else to make proper decisions on your behalf when you can no longer do so for yourself. In detail:

A Durable Power of Attorney allows you (the “principal”) to select a person (the “agent”) to “step into your shoes” if you become mentally or physically incapacitated. With a properly executed Power of Attorney, the agent will be able to make legal and financial decisions on your behalf. This is a very trusting responsibility so you should always appoint a family member or close friend.

A Health Care Surrogate allows you to plan ahead for difficult medical decisions. It allows you to name someone (the “agent”) that will make health care decisions for you in case you are unable to make them yourself. Such decisions include consenting to certain medical procedures, seeking a second opinion, obtaining medical records, or transferring you to a different medical facility.

A Living Trust or Last Will and Testament to Leave Your Hard Work in the Right Hands

These two documents are the primary estate planning tools. With either of these plans, all your hard-earned assets will be distributed to your loved ones at the time of your death. The people or charities you designate to receive any part of your estate are called beneficiaries. The difference between a Living Trust (also known as a Revocable Trust) and a Will is the process by which your estate gets transferred to your loved ones.

A “Living Trust” or “Revocable Trust” is a document created by an estate planning attorney. Your assets are then transferred into the Trust.  Unlike a Will, a Trust is a private document that does not become part of the public record. One of the main highlights of this type of trust is that they are used to by-pass probate, a long tedious court process. This means that upon your death, all assets in the Trust pass to the beneficiaries through the Trust, and not through any court process. Trusts can also provide your beneficiaries with asset protection. Upon inheriting any monies or assets through a Trust, the beneficiary enjoys financial protection from future creditors, divorces, and bankruptcy. Living Trusts are fully revocable: the creator can change any terms or completely revoke (cancel) the Trust.

A Will is an important estate-planning document that, although losing in popularity to a Living Trust, can still provide crucial financial organization. Wills are used to designate who should receive your assets upon your death. Wills allow you to appoint someone to become “Personal Representative” of your estate. This person will be responsible for carrying out your last wishes according to what you wrote in the Will. If you have minor children (those under 18 years of age in Florida), you can appoint a Guardian who will care for your children in case of your passing.

Your To-Do List:

  • Make sure you update your estate plan whenever you have any major life changes such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, or death of a family member. According to the Society of Actuaries, “On average, women live longer than men and most women outlive their husbands, often by 15 years or more.” For example, in the event your spouse predeceases you, it is important to apply any changes in your estate plan that involved your spouse.
  • Make sure children and pets stick together – make provisions that if something were to happen to you, your children do not get separated from their pets. After the loss of a parent, a child relies on all things familiar, such as other family members, teachers, and pets. You want to ensure that the guardian you select for your children will also welcome your pets.
  • Financial investments – It is always a good idea to meet with a Financial Planner so you know your options regarding life insurance policies, college savings plans, UTMA accounts, and IRA accounts. There are such a variety of options out there, that almost any budget can allow for some long-term investment strategies that will benefit your children or their educational options.

Ladies, our achievements have been noted globally. Honoring the strides we have taken in business and in our households should become a priority. Contact our experienced estate planning attorneys at (954) 251-0332 or to receive a personalized consultation for the modern woman that wears many hats.