Estate planning is an important yet often neglected task by many, regardless of gender. However, it's especially crucial for women due to their longer life expectancy as compared to men.

Women generally face a greater financial burden, as they are usually forced to manage living expenses on a single income or none at all for extended periods of time. This is coupled with the fact that women often earn less than their male counterparts, which creates a greater potential challenge.

Consider these important points about planning your estate:

  1. Everyone requires a will. Creating an up-to-date will is essential in ensuring that your intention concerning the ownership of your estate and assets is respected after death. If you pass away without a valid will, the state has jurisdiction to handle and divvy up your property as it sees fit.

  2. Choose a trustworthy executor. The executor of your estate is responsible for managing your financial affairs until all taxes, debts and assets have been settled, as per the terms of the will.

    • When deciding on someone to assume the role of executor, it is advisable to consider a person who has some financial knowledge and experience. Even though family members are often chosen for this role, the best person for this job should have financial expertise.

  3. If you experience major life changes, remember to revisit your estate plan. Estate planning should not be a static process. Life changes and so do your circumstances, so you should consider updating your estate plan regularly as required. If you haven't reviewed it recently, now might be the right time to do so.

  4. Consider a pre-nuptial agreement before remarrying. Hiring a lawyer to draft a pre-nuptial agreement is vital if you want to ensure that your children or grandchildren inherit most, if not all, of the assets upon your death. This pre-nup would restrict the rights of any future spouse to your assets.

    • The division of assets during divorce or the death of a spouse can be complicated and it varies widely depending on which state you are in. This process becomes even more complicated if there is a new spouse involved.

  5. Become more familiar with your family’s finances. Despite many women taking on financial responsibilities in the home, there are still a lot of situations where women don't take part in important fiscal decisions.

    • It is essential to have a good understanding of your financial situation and plan proactively for the future. Staying informed of key developments will help you make more informed decisions in the long run.

  6. Plan ahead and keep taxes in mind. Generally, assets can be transferred to a spouse without incurring any tax liability. However, in the event of death, transferring assets to your children may result in estate and inheritance taxes.

    • If you have made an estate plan, it's important to communicate to your children that some of the inherited assets may need to be sold in order to cover inheritance taxes.

  7. Trusts are powerful tools. Contrary to popular opinion, trusts are beneficial not just for the wealthy but for anyone who wishes to order their affairs in a manner that best suits their own interests and those of their loved ones.

    • Trusts are a great way to ensure that family assets are secure until the next-in-line is old enough to manage them. They also help in protecting your assets from any potential financial claims that could be made by a former spouse.

    • Trusts are an efficient way to pass on assets to the people you want and can be used by almost anyone. They provide a reliable mechanism for transferring ownership of the assets.

  8. Think about giving away some of your assets before you die. You can enjoy tax exemptions of up to $17,000 annually per beneficiary through gifting. This is beneficial as it helps to reduce the amount of taxes your estate may have to pay in the future.

  9. Share a joint account with your spouse. In the event of death or severe disability, accessing the other person's accounts can be a difficult and time consuming process. This can result in immediate financial expenses such as medical and/or living costs that need to be taken care of.

    • That doesn’t mean that individual accounts are a bad idea. Just be sure to have a joint account also.

Even though you probably prefer to put off your estate planning until the future, it will bring you peace of mind if you make your plan now and then revisit it at regular intervals. Estate planning can vary for women depending on the circumstances.

Be proactive and take the steps to address your unique financial situation. You’ll be glad you did.