Why Women Should Be the Captain of the Estate Plan – 10 Steps to Take Charge

Statistically speaking women outlive men, which means wives are often left to deal with all of the issues associated with transferring wealth. What then are the key issues that need to be addressed? There are 10 steps that the woman, as the likely surviving spouse, should help orchestrate:

1. Compile and update a list of all assets, including real estate, savings, stocks, bonds, 401K plans, IRAs, personal effects, collectibles and insurance policies.

2. Execute wills and trusts and update periodically. Guardians, trustees and executors need to be selected. There are also decisions to be made regarding distribution ages, beneficiary designations, charitable bequests, and special provisions for family members. Durable powers of attorney and living wills are also important.

The results of not being proactive on your estate plan can be disasterous.

3. Coordinate how assets are titled to avoid probate and achieve tax savings.

4. Determine how much income will be necessary for the surviving spouse and children to maintain their standard of living and satisfy other financial goals, such as college education and payment of debt.

5. Make sure long-term disability and health care needs are met. Insurance policies can provide relief from an otherwise severe strain on assets.

6. Plan ahead to determine what estate and income taxes will be payable at death.

7. Make sure adequate insurance is available to pay debts and estate taxes, provide income for the family, and when necessary, provide key man protection to run a business.

8. If a spouse is a business owner, make sure there is a business succession plan that provides contacts for key people such as the bank, suppliers, creditors, etc. Make sure you know where all important papers are located.

9. Take steps to retain key employees who can help run the business, or be there to assist in an orderly sale of the business.

10. Understand the nature of your invested assets, such as stocks and bonds, and the tax implications of changing the asset mix to meet the liquidity needs of an untimely death.

The results of not being proactive on your estate plan can be disastrous. Children may not be able to go to college, the house may have to be sold and the family moved to a more affordable location. The surviving spouse may have to find a job to support the family. Cash reserves could be depleted.

None of these things have to happen. But people tend to focus on the urgent brush fires of daily life and miss the forest fire that can destroy their lives’ goals because of inadequate planning. As with any important life decision, you may need professional advisors to help with your personal estate planning roadmap.

No one has done everything they should do in planning their estates. And even if you have done planning in the past, it gets outdated very quickly. No one is better suited than a woman to say, “I am going to captain this project to make sure my family is secure.”
Norman Pappas is president and founder of Pappas Financial and the author of several articles on business and estate planning topics. His book, Passing the Bucks, is a guide to business succession and wealth transfer planning. He can be reached at [email protected].