Financial & Estate Planning for Women: 6 Things You Need to Know
Have you set the date yet? Is your daughter getting married? Marriage is an important step. If both spouses have a similar financial situation, then perhaps no special planning needs to be considered. If there is a disparity in finances, whether yourself or your family, then consider whether a prenuptial agreement is necessary. If so, please be sure to take the time to prepare it properly. A prenuptial agreement may ultimately prove unenforceable unless both parties are represented by independent legal counsel and have disclosed a complete summary of their financial situation.
Perhaps you have been married for a while, and the spark is no longer there. In the event of a divorce, it is important that you have a complete understanding of all financial matters concerning yourself and your spouse. It is important for you to remain involved in the daily financial matters of your family. Be prepared.
Are you planning a trip away without your children? Will the kids be staying with friends or relatives? What if a medical emergency arises with one of the children while you are gone? Have you prepared a stand-by guardian appointment? It is important that someone have the legal authority to deal with the situation and make medical decisions for your children in your absence.
Do you have a Will that designates the person who should be appointed to serve as guardian for your children in the event of death? Be sure to designate a primary guardian as well as an alternate. What about the assets you leave behind for your children? Have you established a trust to oversee their use and management of any inheritance until the children are old enough to make sound financial decisions? What about your life insurance and retirement accounts? The disposition of certain assets is not controlled by your Will, and additional steps must be taken to coordinate the proper distribution of such assets. Most people have designated their children as the primary or contingent beneficiary of these assets. However, if you have included a trust in your Will, then you should designate the trustee of the children’s trust as beneficiary of these assets rather than the children.
Although it is normal to allocate household responsibilities among spouses, it is best to be prepared for an emergency. Do each of you have access to money? Who controls the household finances? Are you aware of all of the pieces of the puzzle? Do you need to take a stronger role in the family finances? Do both of you have full knowledge of all assets and contact information? If not, consider making some changes.
Many spouses share common credit cards. Credit card companies readily provide additional cards for other family members, yet only the applicant of the card is generating credit history. In the event of death of the applicant, or a divorce, the other spouse may lose access to such “joint” credit cards. It is best for each spouse to apply for their own credit.
Is retirement looming in your future? Carefully consider your options before finalizing your decisions. Be sure you will have sufficient income and assets during retirement. In fact, many people are postponing retirement and choosing to work longer. People over age 65 are the fastest growing segment of the work force. Don’t leave your job if you are not sure you will have adequate assets. If you leave your job, it may be difficult to find another. People in their 60s have a difficult time finding work. Evaluate your current job and how long you may be able to continue to work, perhaps at a lesser level (reduced hours).
You should also contact the social security administration and estimate your anticipated social security benefits. You should be regularly receiving a summary of your prior earnings. If there is a problem, it is best to resolve errors prior to retirement. Also, double check the amount of social security benefits your spouse will receive. What if your spouse dies? What impact will his death have on your social security benefits? Oftentimes, your benefits increase. Even the benefits of a divorced spouse may be increased upon the death of an ex-husband.
Prepare a budget of projected income and expenses. Be sure that you have enough money to maintain your lifestyle. Seek the guidance of a financial advisor. They should be able to project how long your retirement accounts and other assets will last. Be involved in the discussions and the decisions. If you are not familiar with investments and financial matters, you will need to educate yourself. When evaluating investment options, don’t avoid risk. It is generally advisable to allocate some portion of your assets to equity-type investments. Cash at the bank loses purchasing power with inflation and the passage of time.
Healthcare costs during retirement will likely be a significant expense. Plan for it. Review and understand the terms and cost of Medicare. Shop for a good Medicare supplement policy to cover the cost of deductibles, co-pays, and other items not insured by Medicare. Include a Part-D prescription drug plan in your coverage. However, even the best medical insurance will not cover the costs of custodial care. If a physical or mental issue arises, you may not be able to live independently. If your spouse has issues, will you be able to provide all of the care required? Many seniors require assistance from family or others. Family typically works for free; anyone else will want to be paid. These costs can add up. Be sure to anticipate these costs in your planning. Consider the need for long-term care insurance. Sure the insurance is expensive, but so are the possible future costs. Make an informed decision as to whether long-term care insurance is worth the benefit.
Most people will rely on the assistance of family or others as they age. Be sure to have an updated Power of Attorney that will enable someone to assist you with financial matters. Perhaps your spouse will be the primary agent, but be sure to designate an alternate. Be sure that your Power of Attorney is broad enough to allow your agent to help with estate planning, and include the power to make gifts. Prepare a complete summary of your assets and liabilities in a well-organized manner, and keep it where it can be located in the event of an emergency. Include names and contact information of all of your advisors.
Be sure to have an updated Living Will and medical Power of Attorney. Please be sure to select a primary agent as well as at least one alternate. Talk to your spouse and children as to your preferences for end-of-life issues. Be sure that they know your wishes. Prepare a list of your doctors and history of past medical conditions. Include names, specialty, and contact information. Keep a current list of your medications. Be sure that the person designated to assist you has the information that they will need to help you. Download and fill out our free Emergency Information Sheet.
Be sure to talk with your family as to your living preferences regarding future living arrangements if you can no longer safely live independently. Do you wish to remain in your home? What if your spouse dies: will you be able to live alone and maintain the house? If not, who will help you with these matters? Would it be better to move into a communal living arrangement: assisted living, apartment, condo, etc.? If a nursing home is envisioned, have you looked around and identified the one you might prefer?
Do you have a Will? Do you wish to avoid probate administration? Will there be sufficient funds to provide for your funeral and estate settlement costs? Be sure to get your affairs in order.
If you would like assistance with the issues raised, please contact our office. One of our experiened estate planning attorneys would be happy to help you.