With Mother’s Day still very close in our rearview mirror, let’s talk about women, estate planning, and long term care. Preparing for the future is obviously important to both men and women, but many women have some special considerations to make.
For married women, estate planning and long term care planning is wise. Women generally have longer life expectancies than men (although the gap may be closing). In the United States, current life expectancy for women sits, on average, at 81 years, and for men, 76 years. Since life expectancies in general are still rising, women must expect a lengthy period of limited income and extended healthcare costs, and they must consider that they will be facing some of that time on their own. A comprehensive plan for a married woman that addresses the issues that concern the couple, but also contains lifetime and long term care planning that takes affect after a spouse dies can go a long way toward alleviating a woman’s fear of an extended time of caring for herself on her own.
Women are still frequently the primary caregivers in our society. Whether she has young children, adult children, or aging parents and other relatives, a woman who is responsible for the health and safety of others must consider what could happen if she becomes incapacitated or dies unexpectedly. A thoughtful estate plan lets you appoint guardians for minor children, or to set up comprehensive financial guidelines for the distribution of assets to adult children. Arrangements can be made to continue care without interruption for an elderly parent. Knowing what will happen in case of the unforeseen can provide peace of mind.
For women who are unmarried and have no children, having a good estate plan is especially important. The ability to choose ahead of time who will make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated is invaluable, but you must plan and put those choices in writing for them to be recognized. And because the state decides the distribution of assets for anyone who has not created their own plan and made their choices known, those without spouses or descendants are at risk of having the state decide (incorrectly) who benefits from a lifetime of work and saving. The state does not recognize non-blood relationships, or organizations you are passionate about, so without careful planning your partner or your favorite charities will not benefit from your estate. In fact, the statute around inheritance will recognize an estranged sibling or sometimes the state itself as beneficiary even while it will not recognize a life partner. A thoughtful estate plan will let you determine where your assets go after your death, and who will care for you and make your financial and healthcare decisions if you are not able to do so.