Statistically, women outlive men. That means that the estate plan, or lack of estate plan, will often be played out by us. If there is no will, no power of attorney, no trust protecting our assets, women are often left holding the bag, with no good results. Often women do not manage the money side of things, and when pushed into that role by the illness or death of a spouse, all the grief and dislocation can be magnified by a sense of panic – needing to deal immediately with complex legal and financial concepts which can have long term consequences – sometimes impacting the rest of our lives.
Educate yourself, find an estate planning lawyer that you trust, and who can explain your options. Find a financial planner, again, someone you trust, who will take the time to explain things until they really make sense. Know who you want to call when you need them; don’t be in the position of having to find an advisor when you are desperate. Put a plan in place. This can be easier than you think, and while there will be some costs involved, consider what could happen without any planning. An old plan (you know the one you did when the kids were little) may not work now that you are 62 and thinking about retirement.
Start planning now, before there is a crisis, and save yourself money, stress and time.
Do you have a favorite charity or non-profit? A cause that touches you in a special way? Each day, charities do great work with scarce resources. They house our homeless children, feed our poor, provide legal resources to our veterans and to impoverished grandparents, work to preserve our environment, and nurture our faith and spirituality. My favorite causes include the Fund to Prevent Homelessness, First Parish Church, and the North Shore YMCA. Each works in my community to improve all of our lives, but each works in a really different way.
Planned Giving is a way to think about YOUR resources, and to include important groups in your giving both while you’re alive, AND after you pass away. Many families sit down together and draw up a plan, thinking about the causes that are important, and talking about how they want to support them. This is more about planning than about great wealth – many people with limited means contribute every year to churches and community groups. Americans are generous, giving more than $307 BILLLION in 2008, mostly from individuals. One report estimates that 67% of American households make charitable contributions, while only 8% leave gifts in their wills (Fundraising Research). What organization do YOU love, that maybe gives your life a special sense of hope or comfort? Consider adding it to your estate plan, by will, by apportioning a percentage of an insurance policy or by making it a beneficiary on an investment account. And of course, as you do this, talk to your attorney or tax advisor about the best way for your wishes to be drafted and integrated into your overall planning!