Estate Planning for Women: Powers of Attorney

Estate planning for women is the same as estate planning for men, right? Wrong! This is the first in a series of posts about the challenges that women face in estate planning and the opportunities that they should consider to overcome these challenges.
One challenge is that women often live longer than men. On average, women outlive men by 5 to 6 years. By age 85, there are roughly 6 women to every 4 men. In addition, in second marriages, women often marry men who are approximately 8 years older.

Since women live longer than men on average, a good estate plan must include a plan for incapacity. For this reason, powers of attorney are a critical part of every woman’s estate plan.

Women should have financial and health care powers of attorney in place. A married woman almost always names her husband as the primary agent under her powers of attorney. However, because women live longer, the choice of who will serve as the successor agent is very important. The successor agent should be trustworthy and someone the woman is comfortable sharing her expectations and wishes with.

Women should also consider whether it makes sense to name co-agents as successor agents. Although this might work on a financial power of attorney, it is rarely a good idea to name co-agents on a health care power of attorney. Health care powers of attorney are almost always activated in emergency situations and it is impractical (if not impossible) for health care providers to locate and consult with multiple agents when decisions must be made quickly.

Finally, powers of attorney should be updated. We recommend that powers of attorney be updated every 3 to 5 years or sooner if there is a significant change in the law or a woman’s life situation.

Next post in the series - Estate Planning for Women: Long-term Care Insurance.

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