Today, March 8th, 2023, is International Women's Day. This is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women's equality, and the 2023 theme is #EmbraceEquality.
As we celebrate Women's Day today, it's important to acknowledge the significant contributions women make in our society. Women are no longer just homemakers but also leaders in our communities. However, despite their growing role in society, women often fail to prioritize self-care, including estate planning, which can have serious consequences for themselves and their families in New Jersey.
Estate planning is the process of planning for incapacity and managing and distributing your assets and properties after you pass away and creating a legacy. Estate planning is not just for the wealthy; everyone, regardless of their financial status, should have an estate plan in place. An estate plan allows you to decide who will receive your assets, who will manage your affairs when you can't, and how you want to be remembered. An estate plan will often include, at a minimum, a will, power of attorney and health care directives. Trust planning is becoming more common and creates a variety of living and testamentary planning options.
In New Jersey, if you die without an estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to state law. This means that your assets may not go to the people you would have chosen, and your estate may be subjected to taxes planning could have reduced or avoided. By having an estate plan, you can ensure that your assets go to the people you care about the most and minimize the tax burden on your estate. If you do not have an estate plan and become incapacitated requiring another to act on your behalf, it is possible that the Court may appoint a guardian or conservator that you would not have chosen yourself. By having an estate plan, you can ensure your preferred agents are evident and in place in the event of your incapacity.
Women face unique estate planning challenges that men may not encounter. For instance, women tend to live longer than men, which means they need to plan for their retirement and long-term care. Women may also be more likely to take time off from work to care for children or elderly parents, which can affect their income and retirement savings. Planning for present circumstances with consideration for future impact is necessary, as is periodic review and adjustment as the law and life events impact objective or effectiveness.
Another reason women need to prioritize estate planning is that they often own property jointly with their spouses. Joint ownership can complicate the distribution of assets after one spouse dies, especially if there are children from a previous relationship or other family members involved. Many times, when emotions are high and decisions must be made, amicable relationships are strained and the perceptions, opinions and goals may clash. Even the most harmonious of families will benefit from the creation of a Life and Legacy Plan, as having an estate plan can ensure that your wishes are carried out and prevent unnecessary conflict among those you love.
Creating an estate plan may seem daunting, but it is an essential step to ensure you and your loved ones are protected as you intend. Time, energy, and money are among your most significant resources. This is the very reason to take the time to plan now! The often-erroneous rationalization that there will be time later, or that the cost to design a Life and Legacy Plan is prohibitive leads to avoidance of planning. When illness and death arrive without an estate plan, planning options are often lost, and the you and your loved ones may risk a greater loss of time, money and energy.
Finally, designing a Life and Legacy Plan that aligns your morals and intent with your estate planning goals will provide you with peace of mind. This benefit alone should motivate action. Knowing that you have lawfully provided clear instruction will eliminates the requirement of loved ones to guess or fight over what you would have wanted or what they think is right. This is especially important when dealing with the stress of illness or trauma of death. Removing these burdens is one of the kindest gifts you can give to your loved ones. The value of the peace of mind created is immeasurable!
Are you ready to cross off “get a will” from your “to do” list? Do you have questions about whether your old estate plan still meets your current objectives? Do you have questions about how to start the estate planning process? Contact Hartmann Law to schedule a free initial consultation, and take the first step to designing your Life and Legacy Plan today!