“Estate Planning Issues for Women”

By: Anne-Herbert Rollins, Esquire
Miles & Stockbridge P.C.

In a previous article, “Life and Death Planning: The Essential Legal Tools Every Person Should Have”, I spelled out the three (3) essential legal documents every adult should have in place as part of his or her estate plan. Specifically, those documents include: (1) a Last Will and Testament; (2) a Durable Financial Power of Attorney; and (3) a Durable Health Care Power of Attorney. Regardless of your current age, health, or circumstances, those documents are necessary to have in place to direct others as to your wishes and intent regarding your assets, your personal, financial and business affairs, and your health care and end of life medical treatment.

While those estate planning documents are essential for every adult, many people neglect to have those documents in place. It is particularly important for women, and especially a woman with children, to have an estate plan in place to protect not only herself but also her minor children in the event of her death or incapacitation by illness.

Oftentimes women who are married fall into the trap or complacency of leaving important financial and legal matters to their spouse. Women need to take an active role to ensure that they have an estate plan in place. While everyone may enter into marriage with the intent that it will last “until death do them part,” statistics would prove that is not always the result and many marriages end in divorce.

Women should protect themselves not only in any prenuptial agreement or separation agreement but also in their estate plan. And this is particularly true where, in a second marriage, a woman may have children from her first marriage. A prenuptial agreement or trust agreement, in addition to a Will, can be used to provide for a woman’s children from a prior relationship.

A mother can specify in her Will who she would like to have act as the legal guardian of her minor children in the event of her death. The children’s father has certain rights by law, of course, but in the event the father may have predeceased the mother, or there is a simultaneous death of the parents, it is important for the parents to specify their wishes as to who would become the legal guardian of any minor children.

This can also be accomplished by a Trust Agreement, which can designate a guardian of the children in the event of the parent’s death or incapacity. A Trust can also appoint trustees to administer assets for the benefit of minor children, as well as emancipated adult children. And if any child is disabled or has special needs it is essential to provide for the care and custody of a disabled child in the event of a parent’s death or incapacity.

An estate planning attorney can assist in preparing any Will or Trust documents specifically tailored for your individual and family needs. Most importantly, an attorney can ensure that any documents comply not only with your personal wishes, but also that your estate planning documents comply with Maryland law.

Disclaimer: This is for general information and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice for any particular matter. It is not intended to and does not create any attorney-client relationship. The opinions expressed and any legal positions asserted in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Miles & Stockbridge P.C., its other lawyers or the YMCA of Frederick County, Maryland Newsletter.

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