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Why Do Women Need an Estate Plan?

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Last night Marshall, Parker & Associates’ Managing Attorney, Tammy Weber provided a presentation for the Junior League of Williamsport. It was the perfect opportunity for Tammy to share her thoughts on the importance of estate planning for women of all ages.  She also shared her article below for  our blog readers. Pictured to the right is Attorney Weber with our Case Manager (and Junior League Member) Shelby Weber.

Women and Estate Planning

By: Attorney Tammy A. Weber

Statistics tell us that women live longer than men, earn less than their male counterparts, have smaller pensions and social security benefits than men because of a career hiatus to have children or care for aging parents, and often opt out of pension plans because of a need for current income.  Married women tend to have their husbands handling the finances and planning their estate and retirement.

Then, an unanticipated change occurs – divorce, severe illness, incapacity, death.  Estate planning and estate administration attorneys see the devastating effects of this failure to plan for the crisis.  Women, whether married, single or in a committed relationship, should educate themselves about their current situation and be active participants in planning for their financial future.

Here are a few questions to get you thinking —

– If you pass away today, would your money and assets go where you want them to?  If you are single with no children and no will, your assets will go to your parents if they are living.  Perhaps you would prefer a charity or a niece or nephew . . . Pennsylvania’s plan for people who pass away without a will may not match your plan.

– Are people dependent upon you financially or for their care? For example, are your children minors or do they have special needs?  Have you picked a guardian for your children or for the money they will inherit from you?  This is especially important if you are divorced from their other parent.  Are you the caregiver for an aging parent or a special needs child?

– Do you wish to leave your assets to someone the rest of your biological family would not approve of?  There are ways to minimize the possibilities of challenges to your estate after you are gone.

– If you are divorced, have you updated your plan?  Most plans are voided by divorce; however, some beneficiary designations are not.

– Do you own land with other persons?  You may believe that when you pass away, your portion of that land will go to your children, but it will depend upon the wording of the deed.

– Have you made arrangements should you need long-term care?  Is long-term care insurance a possibility?

– If your husband passes away, do you know if you will receive any portion of his pension or retirement?  Your income stream may change drastically.

– If you become mentally incapacitated, have you appointed an agent to handle your financial affairs?  If not, your loved ones may have to go to Court and try to get appointed to be your Guardian.

 

Creating a Comprehensive Estate Plan —

Created with the help of your lawyer and financial advisors, your legal plan will show how your assets can best be utilized for your benefit and ultimately protected and preserved for the benefit of your intended beneficiaries.

Power of Attorney

In the event of your incapacity, a power of attorney can help ensure that the desired decisions will be made for you by the people you choose. A well-drafted power of attorney will increase the likelihood that your values will always be respected and that your family can be protected from your health care costs.

A power of attorney can be the key that opens the door to effective asset protection planning and the preservation of your family’s financial security.

Health Care Directives and Authorizations

The health care power of attorney and the living will are documents that give you some measure of control over the medical treatment you will receive if you ever become incompetent.  The health care power of attorney is more flexible because it is not limited to just terminal illness situations.

Asset Protection Documents

In addition to an asset protection power of attorney, specialized deeds, trusts, and other agreements may help protect your assets in the event that you (or your spouse) should ever require long-term care either at home or in a nursing facility.

Last Will and Testament

In this document you can give important instructions regarding how your property should be distributed after your death, who will care for your children and other loved ones, and much more. Your will helps assure that your assets will be distributed to the persons you want in the right amounts and at the right times.

Ownership & Beneficiary Designations

At your death, the transfer of some of your property will likely occur without regard to the provisions of your will. Joint accounts, life insurance, annuities, IRAs and other retirement plans, and other assets for which beneficiaries have been named are all distributed without regard to what your will says. You need to create a plan that covers all of your assets.

 Trusts

Trusts are particularly useful if you have a family member with a disability.  Specialized trusts can be used to hold funds to enhance the beneficiary’s life without jeopardizing their eligibility for government benefits.  Individuals and married couples can set up trusts that will protect their assets from the cost of care in the event of a future disability. In addition, trusts can sometimes be used to minimize taxes.

The benefits of comprehensive estate planning are compelling.  Once your plan has been implemented, you will enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that you have done all you can to protect yourself and your family from whatever the future may hold.  It is never too early to get started. Just make certain that your estate planning is comprehensive.