In the 21st century, most of the issues surrounding equality of the sexes have been largely resolved. Women are no longer relegated solely to the role of housewife and mother, and the younger generations generally accept the idea of gender equality without giving it much thought. Equality, however, does not preclude differences. One area where it is important for women to recognize those differences is in the area of estate planning. Unfortunately, old beliefs and myths sometimes die hard.
The Importance of Estate Planning for Women
The reality is that estate planning issues often affect women more profoundly. The primary reason for this is, women are likely to have the final say when it comes to passing down the family wealth. Why? Because they are likely to live longer. A longer average life expectancy, coupled with the fact that women tend to marry men who are slightly older, means women are three times more likely to be a widow at age 65 than their male counterparts. Statistically speaking, this should make women more likely to be actively involved in estate planning. Despite this, several estate planning myths persist that, in reality, make women less likely to pursue estate planning.
Myth #1 – I’m Too Young to Worry about Estate Planning
The truth is you are never too young to start estate planning. For a woman, the need to start planning early is particularly strong for several reasons. To begin with, a comprehensive estate plan does more than simply create a blueprint for the distribution of assets after your death. When properly drafted, your estate plan should also plan for the possibility of your own incapacity or that of a spouse, help protect and grow your assets while you are alive, and ensure those assets provide for you during your retirement years. In addition, your estate plan allows you to nominate a guardian for your minor children and plan for their care and maintenance should anything happen to you. Finally, given the fact that the average age a woman is widowed is 56 years old, you should have a comprehensive estate plan in place well before then to provide for you during your later years.
Myth #2 – My Estate Isn’t Valuable Enough to Warrant an Estate Plan
This explanation for the lack of an estate plan was once much more widely used in years past because when a woman married, legal ownership of most assets would be held in the husband’s name only. Consequently, women did not feel the need to take part in estate planning because they did not legally own much. Today it is the norm for a married couple to hold title to assets jointly or as community property. The current value of those assets should not dictate your need for an estate plan.
Although the need for estate planning may intensify as your estate grows, you do not need to have amassed a fortune to warrant creating an estate plan. In fact, the value of your estate assets are only one of many considerations when creating an estate plan. Because your estate can grow rapidly, proper estate planning should be done early on, before that growth occurs to ensure your growing estate is protected.