5 Estate-Planning Tips for Women

Have an estate plan? Many women postpone thinking about what will happen to their wealth after they (or their spouse) pass away — because it’s not an easy thing to think about. But whether you're married, single, divorced or widowed, it’s important to plan for what will happen to your assets in the event of your death.

The reason is partly because many women, thanks to their longevity, will be responsible for making key decisions about the future of their family’s wealth. According to U.S. Census data, 36 percent of women age 65 and over are widowed, compared to just 12 percent of men of the same age.

How can you be ready? Here are five tips to help you with estate planning:

  • Take care of yourself first. So eager to preserve their wealth for future generations, many women (and married couples) forget to ensure they will be financially secure if their spouse predeceases them. For example, consider at what age you and/or your spouse should start collecting Social Security benefits and consider various strategies for maximizing the benefit amount. Furthermore, your will and any other estate-planning arrangements should be set up to provide enough financial resources for a surviving spouse before passing along assets to other heirs.
  • Educate yourself on estate-planning basics. You should know the basics of estate-planning long before you think you’ll actually need them. They include understanding how your assets – and any assets you own jointly with a spouse or someone else — are invested and how to access them. Be aware of any contact information for your financial advisors or user names and passwords you might need for online accounts. It also includes understanding basic strategies for how to pass along wealth tax-efficiently, such as annual gifting rules and the federal estate and gift tax exclusion, which is $5.34 million in 2014 and $5.43 million in 2015.
  • Have a written plan. The best way to make sure your family is financially protected in the unfortunate event of your or a spouse’s death is to have a written plan. Even if you’re still relatively young, writing a basic will forces you to think through some key decisions: Who do you want to inherit your wealth? Do you want to leave everything to family members or would you like to donate a portion of your estate to a favorite cause or charity?
  • Designate beneficiaries on key accounts — and keep them updated. Chances are, you have accounts such as a 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA) that allow you to name a beneficiary of those assets. It’s important that you do so — and keep those beneficiary elections updated — as they generally supersede those in your will. Review your beneficiary designations at least once a year and especially after major life changes, such as a birth, death or divorce in the family.
  • Consider trusts and other estate-planning mechanisms. Certain trusts can provide you with greater control over how your assets are distributed to your heirs and help you reduce the tax consequences of that wealth transfer.

Your Regions Wealth Advisor can help you evaluate your situation and build estate plans tailored to your needs and long-term goals with a team of subject-matter experts, as well as the Regions Wealth Assessment. 


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