Although couples usually come into our office together to discuss their estate plans, quite often it’s the women who lead the discussion about planning for the guardianship of children, and the men who lead the discussion about financial planning.
Estate planning is a subject which has a significant impact on women—in fact, this article in Forbes suggests that estate planning may affect women even more than men because “Among Americans 65 and older, 42% of women, but just 14% of men are widowed. Women’s longer life expectancy, combined with their tendency to marry older mates and their lower lifetime earnings means they are far more likely to see their living standards compromised in retirement if proper estate planning isn’t done.”
How can women ensure that this doesn’t happen to them? The best answer is for women to be involved in the estate planning process—not just the issue of guardianship, but financial issues as well. Talk to your partner about what happens if (as is likely) your spouse passes away first leaving you a widow. Talk to your spouse and your family about how the remainder of your estate should be distributed upon your death. And don’t discuss the topic in vague terms, bring your estate planner or financial planner into the conversation and talk about cold, hard numbers.
Our firm understands that this is not the easiest conversation to begin. Talking about money in our culture has generally been considered a “dirty topic,” not to mention that nobody likes considering their own (or their spouse’s) mortality, but the consequences of avoiding the discussion can be disastrous.
If you’d like to start a conversation about estate planning with your family but aren’t quite sure how, the Forbes article mentioned above has quite a few excellent suggestions, including “start with current events or an anecdote about other people. Perhaps it’s a movie you saw, a book you read, a news report about someone your age who recently died or a sudden death in your community.” If you’re trying to bring up the subject with your parents as opposed to your spouse you may want to consider telling them “I just did my own estate plan. Don’t you think you should update yours?”
Alternatively, you may simply want to print out this blog post (or the Forbes article) bring it to your spouse/parent/children and read it together. Getting the conversation started is the hardest part, but it’s also the most important. If you can get the ball rolling, our firm can help with everything else.