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Do women have different estate planning needs than men?

When it comes to creating a solid estate plan, both women and men share the need to have their final wishes documented in writing, and to ensure that those documents fall within the letter of the law. However, it can be argued that women have a somewhat unique set of needs in regard to estate planning, and failure to address those needs could result in negative repercussions later in life. In many ways, the estate planning needs of New Jersey women are often tied to the documents that pertain to the men in their lives.

For example, consider a married couple in which the husband owns a business. If he were to decide to name his business advisers as the individuals responsible for handling the business portion of his estate, that choice would leave his wife and any children on the outside of significant financial decision that would affect their lives. The advisers would have a fiduciary duty to the family, but would retain all decision-making rights in regard to the state.

This would include when and how any business assets were sold, as well as the manner in which such assets were valued. The family would have no influence on these decisions, and would be left to accept whatever outcome might result. This would leave them in a position of extreme dependency and prohibit them from leveraging the business assets in a way that suits their changing needs.

In such a scenario, the wife would be far better served to take an active role in the estate planning process. By understanding how the family’s assets would be managed under various estate planning options, the couple can work together to ensure that the final estate plan suits the needs of all parties. Unfortunately, many women in New Jersey simply allow their husbands to make these decisions on their behalf, and fail to participate in the estate planning process.

Source: Market Watch, "How women can make estate planning easier", Andrea Coombes, May 8, 2014

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