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It’s been my experience that wives often drive the creation and maintenance of estate plans for their families. There have been times, however, when the woman did not actively participate in the estate planning process despite owning at least 50% of the estate.
It’s important to note that women who don’t speak up about estate planning might wind up putting themselves and even their children at a financial disadvantage. Estate planning is a way for women to care for themselves and the people they love. Here are some basic reasons why women must have a legal estate plan:
Woman live longer than men, and because of this fact, estate planning affects women more profoundly, so women should take charge of this process, or at least be an equal participant.
Women are the natural caregivers and nurturers of the family. Americans are living longer than ever before due to advancements in medical care. It’s not uncommon today for families to have three or four generations living at the same time. Women need to be prepared to navigate difficult situations for their parents, themselves, their children, in-laws, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Women need to take care of themselves first. Estate planning is not just for death. Rather, women need to plan just as much (if not more!) during their life because they live longer and generally have lower lifetime earnings to tap into. And, because they are the natural caregivers of the family, women need to take care of themselves first so they are able to care for their families.
Women ultimately make all of the inheritance decisions for their families. Because women live longer than men, women control the wealth and usually get the last word on the ultimate distribution of a couple’s estate. To be prepared to make these important decisions, women need to know what their estate consists of; the possible options for distribution; and take action to put their final plan in place.
California is a community property state so women own 50% of the community property estate. The basic rule in California is that half of the community property is the property of the wife. So women who own half of their families estate should certainly participate in the estate planning process.