Women, especially mothers, are usually the family member in charge of making sure everyone else takes care of themselves and does what they are supposed to do. The caregiver for children and older parents or ill relatives has to get them to the doctor, to their pharmacy, take elderly relatives to their bank, make visits to nursing homes, etc. Whether you actually are a mother or not - women usually have major responsibilities as the nurturing female that others look to for comfort, moral support, care in time of crisis, etc. This brochure is written for women and the special place they fill in every family structure, whether you are married, single, remarried, divorced, a mother or not.
What legal documents should women have at each stage of their lives to help ensure that their business and medical needs are taken care of before an emergency illness occurs?
Special Concerns for Single Women at Any Age
A. Durable Power of Attorney - This document is very important because it appoints an agent called an Attorney-in-Fact to take care of your business decisions, pay bills, and make medical decisions if you were incapacitated.
B. Last Will and Testament -Who would receive your assets if you died? Who would be executor of your estate? If you own assets, you need a will.
C. Check beneficiary forms for life insurance, retirement plan, IRA, etc.
D. Advanced Health Care Directive -The removal of life support issues should be dealt with for every single woman and this form must be signed before any accident occurs.
Young Married Women
A. Durable Power of Attorney - This document is needed for the couple. Naming each other as Attorney-in-fact is customary but who will serve if the spouse is unable to serve due to illness or death? Consider a back-up named as Attorney-in-fact in case of joint accident where one spouse is killed and the other incapacitated.
B. Last Will and Testament - Who would be executor? Who would each leave their assets to if their spouse is also deceased? Your attorney will advise you on all the decisions to be included in your will or trust.
C. Joint Tenancy with the Right of Survivorship - Listing the title to your assets this way can cause problems as an estate plan. If one dies, the survivor has no estate plan and must start over to arrange one.
D. Guardian Needed for Young Children - Who would be guardian of the children if both parents died? Who would handle the life insurance? Do you need an educational trust? Your attorney can advise you of the best plan for your family.
Married Middle-Aged Women (Ages 40-60)
A. You need to update your estate plan when you have acquired more assets or heirs.
B. Durable Power of Attorney still needed - keep it current and review who you need as the back-up in case your spouse cannot serve.
C. Everyone needs Advanced Health Care Directive.
D. Review life insurance needs and estate tax planning with your CPA.
Women at Retirement Age (Age 65)
A. Durable Power of Attorney (is this up to date?)
B. Advanced Health Care Directive (is this up to date?)
C. Update the Will - review the status of your heirs (more grandchildren born?)
D. Should you consider a Living Trust, to avoid the probate of your will?
E. Review the status of your children or other heirs - have they gone through a recent marriage or divorce that could effect your estate plan? Questions: How are they doing? Could they handle an inheritance if they received it outright? Should it be left in trust? (Children could receive only the net income.)
The Final Estate Plan for Women (Ages 70+)
If you have a mother (or father) in a nursing home, retirement home, or Assisted Living Center and you are the daughter, then you are probably the primary caregiver. Consider the following:
A. Questions to ask while your parents are still competent (medical):
- Updated Power of Attorney and Advanced Directive? Does their doctor have these? Do the Attorney-in-fact and Health Care Proxy have copies? Who are their primary doctors?
B. Questions to ask about their estate plan:
- Is the will current or is there a Living Trust? Who is Executor? Back-Up Executor? Or who is Trustee? Successor Trustee? Where are assets? Mineral records? Abstracts and real estate documents?
- Where are the assets? Stocks, bonds, mutual funds? Who is the broker? Where are the Certificates of Deposit? Which bank has the checking or savings accounts? Which accounts receive the social security deposits? Which accounts pay automatic drafts like insurance and utility bills? Where is the safe deposit box and the key?
- Ask about life insurance - Where are the policies? Howe are the premiums paid? Who are the designated beneficiaries? Is the beneficiary form outdated?
Special Concerns for Women
A. If you have children/grandchildren - ask them in your best "nurturing" manner - whether they have taken care of these issues - especially the unmarried adult children.
B. If you have young married children - they never think anything is going to happen to them. Ask them have they done a will, named guardians for minor children and considered who would manage their children's inheritance if both parents died? Have they and their spouse executed an Advanced Health Care Directive in case an accident renders them both brain dead?
C. Remind your older children to keep their estate plan updated. Often estate plans and life insurance beneficiary forms are outdated due to divorce, death of spouse, or the birth of children from more than one marriage. If your daughter has married a man who is divorced with children by the former spouse, has your daughter been named as the new beneficiary of her husband's retirement accounts, 401(k) Plan or Life Insurance policy (or is the former spouse still the beneficiary?) Sometimes a Life Insurance Trust is the best choice to solve some of these issues.
D. Decisions about personal property. Make sure in your own estate that you have informed your attorney how you want your personal property like jewelry, china, sterling silver, antiques, etc. distributed. Whether you use a will or revocable living trust, your heirs and beneficiaries can have great emotional attachment to personal items so closely associated with their mother, grandmother, etc. Before seeing your attorney to prepare or update your estate plan, always make a list of your assets, especially the personal property and review carefully how you want to leave those items to your heirs.
E. Family owned business. Women should always understand how their husband's business is organized and financed when he works for himself. What are the assets and liabilities of your husband's business? What is his business plan in case he becomes ill or incapacitated? Who will run the day to day operations of the business? Does he have a business partner that will buy him out of the business? What is the status of the loans he is liable for through your bank? A spouse should always know these important points about a family owned business.
Contact our Trust Officers and schedule a free, one-hour estate planning conference to discuss your estate plans. We do not write legal documents but our experienced Trust Officers will discuss the options available to you and your family. We will provide you with brochures to read on important estate planning topics before you see your attorney.
Call (580) 436-8323 or (580) 436-8322.