While estate planning seems to be far down the priority list of most people, it seems to be even more likely with older women. Female baby boomers seem to have followed in the footsteps of their mothers, assuming that estate planning and finances are for fathers and husbands. But things have changed significantly for the female population since their mothers’ generation.
Statistics show that women live longer now. The average life expectancy of a 60-year-old woman is now 84 (as opposed to 81 for men). Because men tend to die at an earlier age, many women are living as widows. And because women statistically come out of a divorce in wore financial shape tan their male counterparts, divorced women may have fewer resources to get them through their senior years. And it is well-documented that women are typically paid only a percentage of what men in similar jobs earn.
Women also statistically have higher health costs, to some degree because of their longer longevity, but also because fewer women tend to have health insurance and more out-of-pocket expenses. And women are more likely to be the caregivers when a spouse, child or other loved one is ill, meaning that they will forfeit their own work hours to give aid.
So what can women do to better protect themselves in their senior years? First, whether you are married or not, create an estate plan. This doesn’t mean to figure out what to leave to your loved ones, but how to take care of yourself. And do it sooner rather than later.
An estate plan should include powers of attorney for finances and health. It should also include any assets that you have or expect to receive such as a spouse’s life insurance proceeds, proceeds from retirement accounts, veterans’ benefits and social security. Having some idea of what your resources are and will be during your life and after will help you and an estate planning attorney figure out how to make sure that you are provided for and that anything you leave goes where you want it.