Estate planning is for everyone, but it is especially important to think about if you are a woman. Statistics show that women are more likely to live longer than their husbands. Therefore, a woman may have to pay estate taxes on assets that both she and her partner accrued during their lifetime. Fortunately, there are estate planning strategies for women that can help dramatically reduce any tax burden.
However, many women put off planning their estate. According to recent polling, only 14 percent of women have created a detailed estate plan. Are you one of the millions of American women who have not written a will? While estate planning may seem costly and time-consuming, it can pay off big dividends in the future. Meeting with a Denver estate planning lawyer is the first step towards protecting your assets and accomplishing your long-term goals.
What You Need to Know About Intestate Inheritance
If you die without a will, or without a trust that conveys your assets to your beneficiaries, then you are said to die intestate. Your property will then be distributed according to the laws in your state.
In these circumstances, the law makes certain assumptions about where you would like your property to go. In some states, intestate descent laws prefer “blood” to “marriage” and will give a share of your estate to your children or to your parents, rather than your surviving spouse. In other states, your surviving spouse will inherit your entire estate and your children (and parents) are entitled to nothing.
In addition, the intestacy rules in most states give no part of your estate to family members who are not related to you by blood, marriage or adoption, such as stepparents or life partners. For this reason, it is particularly important for unmarried couples to write a will. A Denver estate planning attorney can help protect you and your life partner from being left with nothing after one of you passes away.
How Do Elective Share Provisions Affect Estate Planning for Women?
It is important to recognize that there are limitations on your freedom when giving away your property in a will. If you are married, then it is extremely difficult to disinherit your spouse. State laws generally entitle a surviving spouse to take a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate, regardless of the deceased spouse’s will or estate plan.
For example, if your husband dies without a will, or with a will that makes no provision for you, then you can take a statutorily defined elective share of the estate. This means that you can choose to accept the amount offered by law, usually one-third or one-half of the estate.
Elective share provisions are troubling to many people entering into second marriages, particularly late in life. Even if you have only been married a couple of years, your surviving spouse would potentially be eligible to take up to one-half of your property at death, even if you designated it to go to your children.
Recent revisions to the Uniform Probate Code (adopted by several states) provide a sliding scale for surviving spouses who take against the will. Under this approach, the longer the marriage, the higher the elective share. This helps to minimize one source of worry for older couples who are worried about protecting their assets and passing them along to their children.
Why Living Trusts Are Useful Estate Planning Tools for Women
Since women are statistically likely to outlive their husbands, it is important for them to make plans for issues like incapacity or the need for a guardian. In these circumstances, many attorneys will recommend the creation of a living trust.
Under a living trust, you can transfer your property and other assets to a trustee, who can then manage your assets and distribute a regular income to you for the rest of your life. A living trust can also avoid the need to appoint a guardian of your estate if you should become disabled.
If you change your mind and decide to add or eliminate a beneficiary, then you can make a simple amendment to your trust, usually by a written letter or memo signed and dated by you and delivered to your trustee.
Also, you may want to consider a trust for the benefit of non-immediate family members, such as grandchildren or disabled relatives. A trust can provide a mechanism for making distributions to these beneficiaries without having to go through the probate process.
Our Attorneys Offer Advice on Important Estate Planning Strategies for Women
As a woman, there are many important details to consider when planning your estate. Our attorneys have experience helping women plan for the future. We offer a variety of estate planning strategies for women needing assistance. Contact Wiegand Attorneys & Counselors, LLC today at (303) 625-6280 for a free one hour consultation. We have offices in Denver and Breckenridge and look forward to meeting with you soon.