Women and estate planning: Avoiding common mistakes

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Rebekah Freeman

When was the last time you thought about your estate plan? Women, regardless of age, face unique challenges when it comes to estate planning.

Here are eight estate planning mistakes every woman should avoid:

Understanding your estate plan. If you have an estate plan, do you know exactly what is says? It is vital to understand what your estate plan states, and how that plan will work based upon your assets.

Proactively protecting assets. Women who are getting married, remarried, divorced, or are now single need to make sure they have an estate plan that specifically deals with their assets based upon their current situation, especially in the case of blended families.

Believing you don't need documents. An estate plan gives you the control to dictate who inherits your estate, when they inherit, how they inherit, and who is to manage your estate.

Not having an estate plan means the state in which you reside will make all of those decisions on your behalf.

Not having a healthcare power of attorney. A healthcare power of attorney is vital for anyone 18 and older. These documents allow you to name an agent who can make medical decisions on your behalf and state your medical directives, in the event you cannot make those decisions yourself.

Not having a durable power of attorney. A durable (financial) power of attorney is also vital for anyone 18 and older. This document gives your named agent the authority to manage your assets and make your personal and financial decisions, in the event you cannot.

Not having this document means the court must get involved before anyone has the ability to act on your behalf.

Understanding different types of assets. If your goal is to avoid probate, then you need be aware of what assets count as probate assets and what assets do not. Furthermore, you need to make sure your assets and how they are titled match your estate planning goals. Do not assume putting death beneficiaries on your assets is the best solution.

Managing titles to real estate. It is vital that you understand whose name is on the deed, what type of ownership you have in the property, and what that means in terms of your estate plan.

It is also important to make sure you adequately update titles to real estate upon death of a spouse or divorce.

Surviving spouse inheritance. Do not assume your surviving spouse will simply inherit your estate. Don't assume you as the surviving spouse will simply inherit from your spouse. Understanding how your assets are titled and what your estate plan says will dictate who inherits. This is especially important for blended families.

When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Don't get caught without an estate plan. Call a qualified estate planning attorney today.

Rebekah N. Freeman is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center. hiltonheadelderlaw.com

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