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Women and estate planning, P.1

In a recent Forbes article, Deborah Jacobs advocates that women need to take greater initiative in learning about and participating in the estate planning process. As the article notes, a recent survey by EZLaw reveals that many American women, especially younger women, care more about maintaining their weight than about protecting their financial assets. That, she notes, is a cause for concern.

There are a number of reasons women should be concerned about greater participation in estate planning. Women have a longer life expectancy, a tendency to marry a partner who is older than them, and-on average-a lower income, making them more likely to have compromised living standards upon the death of their spouse. Women without a will may face the possibility of court appointed guardians. Not only that, but some estate planning techniques are premised on the assumption that women don’t know how to manage finances, and so prevent them from having optimal financial freedom.

Aside from learning the technicalities of estate planning, one of the things women can often do better than men is facilitate the conversations necessary for thorough estate planning. The first area where these conversations need to happen is with one’s spouse or partner. The basic idea here is to begin the sometimes uncomfortable process of communicating with one’s life partner about estate planning matters. Doing so will help secure greater participation in the process. Whether the conversation focuses on looking toward your personal futures or on protecting the children, such communication is critical.

Another area where women can begin to get more involved is by discussing estate planning with their children. Getting feedback from children can help refine the estate planning process, although parents should be aware that there is no obligation to adhere to a child’s wishes for an estate plan.

In our next article, we’ll continue discussing the topic of women and estate planning.

Source: Forbes, “Nice Girls Talk About Estate Planning,” Deborah Jacobs, August 9, 2011.