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Practical Planning Tip: Women and Wealth - Planning for Married and Single Women

April 02, 2024

Today we’re going to continue our discussion on women & wealth with a focus on Estate Planning Considerations for Married & Single Women and explain their distinct planning needs.

Married women: It’s important for married individuals to plan their estates to ensure that their spouses are adequately provided for in the event of disability or death. Again, because women tend to outlive men, they typically control the ultimate disposition of a couple’s assets. Couples in second marriages may have unique planning to protect their accumulated wealth and future income to provide for their children, especially children from first marriages. A spouse’s right to inherit the assets of a deceased spouse depends on state law. It’s important that married couples understand these laws, as well as the gift and estate tax benefits available to married couples, when creating their estate plans. Specifically, there’s no federal or state estate gift tax on transfers between U.S citizen spouses due to the unlimited marital deduction.

When appropriate, married couples need to plan their estates to combine the estate tax exemption granted to each person with the unlimited marital deduction to assure that no estate taxes are payable until the death of the surviving spouse. Spouses also need to seek advice regarding division and titling of assets to achieve desired objectives.

Single women: Single women need comprehensive estate planning to provide for their assets, loved ones, favorite charitable organizations, and business interests. If an individual dies without a will or revocable trust, the courts will take control of their estate and distribute assets according to intestacy laws. All too often, particularly for single individuals, those who ultimately share in a decedent’s inheritance under the intestacy laws AREN’T necessarily the same people who would have otherwise inherited the property had the individual died with a will. It’s also important to keep in mind that unmarried couples don’t always benefit from the same spousal rights, tax incentives, and legal presumptions as their married counterparts. For instance, couples who aren’t married may not take advantage of the federal unlimited estate and gift tax marital deductions, and they may be subject to gift tax for certain asset transfers made to their partners. An unmarried couple may not inherit at all under intestacy laws if a partner dies without a will.

In today’s world, where women are getting married later or not at all OR may be in a long-term relationship and never actually get married, it’s IMPERATIVE to have these points discussed with your estate planning attorney and other trusted advisors.

Given the various forms of transition that women face today, it’s important that practitioners encourage them to revisit their estate plan with every lifecycle event to ensure that their assets, and their loved ones are all protected. This includes updating beneficiary designations for bank accounts, brokerage accounts, individual retirement accounts, annuities, wills & trusts, power of attorney, healthcare proxy, and life insurance policies to remove a deceased or ex-spouse and name a new beneficiary.

You can WATCH the full video here.