As recently as fifty years ago in the United States, men traditionally made all major decisions in a marriage. This included decisions regarding investments, expenditures and estate planning. Although this has certainly changed in more recent years, there are still a number of women in their golden years who are accustomed to the concept that the man handles financial and legal affairs. The problem with that is that women typically live longer, meaning that regardless of tradition, estate planning is equally as important for women as it is for men.
Experts tell us that women live, on average, five years longer than their male counterparts in the United States. Therefore, a woman can expect to live to the age of around 80…many live much longer. For women entering their golden years now, or in the near future, this means that comprehensive retirement and estate plans are important. If your husband dies before you, will you have enough income/resources to live comfortably? Assuming you have sufficient assets to outlive the life expectancy estimates, what will happen to your assets after your death?
Traditionally, women deferred to the husband’s estate planning decisions. While there is nothing wrong with this, estate planning laws change often. If you outlive your husband, the decisions made in your existing estate plan may not be in your best interest because of changes in the tax code or changes in the law. For this reason, if no other, you should take the initiative to have your current estate plan reviewed and make any necessary changes to ensure that you will be comfortable throughout your golden years and that your assets will go where you want them to go after your death.
The Law Offices of Barton P. Levine is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.