CLW Financial Planning LLC

Estate Planning: Why It's Important for Women to do this Now

Here’s one thing I hope never happens to you. The problem is, it could in a heartbeat.  What I am speaking of here could happen to any of us, at any time in our lives. That’s why it’s important that we have our estate planning in hand.  So, what am I actually talking about exactly?

I’m talking about a subject none of us really like to think about, yet we must!  That moment,  when without warning, the phone rings. It’s the hospital telling you that there’s been an accident.  You rush to the hospital only to find that your beloved husband has been badly hurt and has passed away. 

Suddenly your world has completely flipped upside down.  At first you won’t know if you are coming or going.  Everything around you will feel like a complete blur and you’ll have no idea what to do next.  Before you expected it, there will be arrangements to be made.  Relatives to contact. Things to sort out.  Not only will you be dealing with the sudden loss of the love of your life, you’ll also have a whole new world to navigate… perhaps completely alone.

As sad as it is to discuss this subject, it’s one that needs to be addressed.  The facts show that women, live longer than men. So the chances of this happening to any of us is higher.  Just stop and imagine it for a second.  How tragic would it be if this happened to you? Would you be ready? Would you know what to do?

Being prepared and having your estate planning in order ahead of time is one thing you can do now, before tragedy strikes.  As I said above, I really hope this never happens to you.  Being organized and having your affairs in order though, ensures that if it does, the journey will be a little smoother.

One of my clients recently found herself in exactly this situation.  Luckily, as a couple they’d been diligent enough with an attorney and my help to sort out their estate planning ahead of time.  This made the burden of losing her husband just a little easier to bear. My client was extremely grateful that we’d taken care of all of this ahead of the unexpected death of her husband. She told me there was no way she would have been able to deal with this as well as her grief.  It made a bad situation, a little easier to deal with.

So, what exactly is involved with estate planning? 

There are five estate planning documents you may need, regardless of your age, health, or wealth:

1. Durable power of attorney

2. Advance medical directives

3. Will

4. Letter of instruction

5. Living trust

The last document, a living trust, isn't always necessary, but it's included here because it's a vital component of many estate plans.

A Durable Power Of Attorney

A durable power of attorney (DPOA) is used if you become either physically or mentally unable to handle your own financial affairs. Without one of these in place, you could find your property becomes wasted, abused or even lost.

Having a DPOA in place means you will have authorized someone else to act on your behalf, be it a relative or someone you trust.  This person can take care of things while you are recovering. It really can bring you peace of mind knowing that all you’ve worked for is not wasted, and is in good hands.

Advanced Medical Directives

This is necessary in the event that you become ill and are unable to speak for yourself. An advance medical directive tells your named party what medical treatment you would want.  It also allows this person to make medical decisions for you.  If you do not have this is place, then there may be no direction for medical staff to follow.  By law, they must then do what is necessary to prolong your life using whatever methods necessary. 

In today’s medical world, this could mean you are kept alive by machine for days, weeks or even months.  Having a medical directive as part of your estate planning leaves no room for doubt on what you want, if this scenario plays out.  

Wills

It’s often said that wills are the cornerstone of your estate planning.  I am sure you know already that the main purpose of a will is to disburse property to heirs after your death. If you do not have a will, then disbursements will be made according to the state law. This could mean that your assets may not go to the people you wanted them to. Having a will as part of your estate planning ensures that your assets will be given to the people you nominate.  This could also be vitally important if there are minor children involved. 

Letter of Instruction

This is a document that usually accompanies your Will.  The purpose of a letter of instruction in your estate planning is so that you can express any personal thoughts or directions. This could include such things as burial instructions, and also give indications on where other documents can be found. It really can be very helpful to have this in place, especially if you depart suddenly and have not had time to share this information with your nominated person.  Please be aware though, a letter of instruction does not substitute your will. Any directions you include are not binding on any party.  The people who you address the letter to may follow or disregard your instructions.

A Living Trust

As mentioned above, this is not always necessary.  However, it can come in handy in certain situations. As the name indicates, A living trust is meant to function while you are living.  It’s a separate legal entity you create to own property.  You are in control of the property in the trust and you can make changes whenever you wish while you are alive.

The main reason why you’d include a living trust in your estate planning would be to avoid probate.  Probate is a legal process that is sometimes required to validate a deceased person’s will in order for their wishes to be carried out by an executor named in the will. This can cause delays, especially if large amounts of money, stocks or shares are involved in the settlement of the estate.

 

I said above, that it is my solemn wish that this situation never happens to you.  I want you to know though, that if it does, being prepared and having your estate planning in order is a way to ensure less problems.

On a personal note, I want to let you know I am here to help you with the process at any time. I want to ensure you are protected and taken care of, should the worst-case scenario play out.