As a Sacramento estate planning lawyer, I can’t stress enough the importance of having the right legal documents in place to systematically and comprehensively protect the people you love following your death or incapacity.
And while woman in general are attune to this “theory” of estate planning as the “nurturers” and even the “protectors” of the family unit, many are simply unaware of its absolute necessity in safeguarding their children—and their livelihood—should something unexpectedly happen to them and/or their spouse.
This is unfortunate, especially considering a recent statistic published in Forbes Magazine that reveals 42% of women age 65 and older are widowed. Essentially, that means in the absence of proper estate planning, 42% of women in this country will lose some portion of the money they were relying on to support themselves through the remainder of their lifetime to taxes, claims from children from prior marriages, legal fees, medical bills, etc.
Yet all of this can be avoided with the implementation of a few basic estate planning tools and strategies designed to protect women and their children financially following the death or incapacity of a loved one.
Of course I can’t cover all of these tools and strategies in this basic article, but I will leave you with 5 important considerations designed to help you lay the foundation for your unique Sacramento estate plan:
- Figure out who you trust to make important medical and financial decisions on your behalf if something happens to you. Typically this is a family member or close friend that you trust to respect your wishes or handle your affairs if you are incapacitated. Eventually you will appoint this person to serve as your legal power of attorney if called upon in a time of need.
- Ponder who could raise your children if something happened to you and/or your spouse. I encourage you to think outside the box and don’t limit yourself to the people who are “financially” able to assume the role as guardian. With proper estate planning, YOU will leave enough money behind to support your children, thus giving you more options as to who can care for your kids in your absence.
- Do you and your spouse have life insurance? This is a critical consideration in making sure the surviving members of your family are provided for should you or your spouse unexpectedly pass away.
- Do you have cash in the bank? If not, consider opening a joint account with your spouse dedicated to covering immediate expenses should one of you die or become incapacitated in an accident. This will protect you financially if there is any delay in receiving your inheritance or federal aid.
- Will your family be hit by estate taxes? For the last few years this hasn’t been a major concern for most people. But this is an important consideration, as the federal estate tax is coming back next year at a roaring 55% and the limit will drop to only $1M. It’s amazing how quickly things add up when you include your house, retirement assets and life insurance. So rather than forking over your hard earned cash to Uncle Sam, it’s preferable to start gifting your assets or shield them by way of a trust if it makes financial sense to do so.
- Do you have an estate plan already in place? When was the last time you looked at it? Are all your assets owned in the right way? Putting legal documents in place once and thinking you are set for the rest of your life is a recipe for disaster. It’s important that your plan keep up with your life and that you have the right people and plan in place. A plan that was fine when it was created 15 years ago is likely to be sorely out of date. And your goals and life have probably changed significantly in that time. You owe it to yourself to take a peek and make sure your plan will serve you well.
Of course there are a number of other questions California women must consider as it relates to estate planning, but this brief checklist is a great start.
However, for those women who want to know without a shadow of a doubt how much protection (or lack of protection!) they have should something happen to them or their spouse, call our office and schedule a FREE Peace of Mind Consultation.
Together in this session we will review your current situation (or plan if you have one), your assets and your end-of-life wishes to determine whether or not your family is truly protected should something unexpectedly happen. I will also teach you how to maximize your current assets and inheritance without sacrificing the ability to qualify for long-term care assistance in the future.
Simply call (916) 241-9661 and mention this article to redeem your free session. These appointments are limited to 10 sessions per month so call today!