Life can be difficult emotionally and financially on everyone after a spouse passes. However, it could become more complicated by not discussing what is included in his estate plan now. Learn why, as a woman, you need to ask the difficult questions now to avoid additional turmoil after your loved one has passed.
According to the United States Bureau of the Census, at some point in their lives, an overwhelming majority of American women (about 90%) will have to bear responsibility for their own financial security by virtue of widowhood, divorce or choosing to remain single.
Women earn, on average, 24% less than men completing the same job according to the U.S. Department of Labor. 75% percent of all elderly Americans living below the poverty level are women. Women receive on average $600 in Social Security, 25% less than men. On average, women tend to live seven years longer than men according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
As a woman, you owe it to yourself, and your family, to make sure that you are financially secure. This is not something you can let someone else take care of. Do not assume that your husband, father or boyfriend has taken care of you as part of their estate plan.
Women tend to earn less money than men and work fewer years on average. Women also change jobs more often than men. As a result, they frequently don’t qualify for pensions or retirement plans. Women who are currently retired or nearing retirement are less likely to have been eligible for defined-benefit pensions than are men in their age groups.
According to Dr. Nancy Dailey, a woman born during the baby boom will likely be widowed by age 67 and remain a widow for 15 years or longer. Also, consider that 53% of women are not covered by a pension compared to 22% of men.
Imagine your shock when he passes away, and you find that you are destitute, or if not destitute, at least in straitened financial circumstances.
Ask yourself the following questions now:
- Do you know what you own?
- Do you know how your assets are titled?
- Do you own things jointly or are the accounts in his name alone?
- Do you have a will and do you know what it says?
- What are your individual and combined debts?
- Are you liable for his debts?
- If his business fails, do you lose your house?
- Who is the beneficiary of his life insurance, IRA, pension, plan?
The questions are not specific for women; they are questions that every spouse should consider.
Once you reflect on the questions above, it is important to plan a non-confrontational time to discuss your questions or concerns with your spouse. If this is not an option, consider reaching out to a financial advisor and attorney about your options. They will be able to provide direction on what steps you need to take in order to protect yourself and your contribution to the estate.
If you do have access to important estate planning documents, it is important to keep copies of these documents in a safe place.
I also do not advise you to sign any waivers of spousal rights without a sound understanding and financial reason to do so.
The rest is up to you. Will you take responsibility for your estate? Find out what you can do to make a sound estate plan. It is never too late to plan ahead. Do not be intimidated to ask questions and seek counsel.
“Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels.” – Faith Whittlesey
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