by Mary Piasta
While estate planning benefits all individuals regardless of gender, there are reasons why estate planning has different importance to women.
Factors both economic and cultural play a part in this discriminatory unequal treatment of women according to Haeuser, Valluzzo & Piasta LLP, Partner Mary Piasta who heard from Betsy Butler, the current Executive Director of the California Women’s Law Center. A former state Assembly member, Ms. Butler explained that statistics paint a picture of why women need estate planning.
In general, women are more likely to be poor in old age than men. Nearly two-thirds of people over 65 and living in poverty are women. And women over 75 are twice as likely to live in poverty as men.
Economic inequality adds to this equation. According to Butler, many factors contribute to this. A lifetime of pay inequality means that, on average, women miss out on nearly $600,000 that their male counterparts make. In addition, this lifetime of pay inequality means lower social security. In general, women’s social security income is and average of 20% lower than men.
Add to that that women pay more in health care costs over their lifetime and as they age. The current statistics indicate that a woman who is 65 now will spend about $47K more in retirement for health care than her male counterpart.
Cultural inequality also plays a part. It is commonly known that the burden of aging family members often falls to women—upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female. The reality of this for many is that taking time off work or juggling a career while caring for a loved one can mean lost wages and decreased professional growth opportunity. This is especially true in light of demands placed on women in times of pandemic like COVID.
Women who are also mothers get the double whammy – having already taken time off or minimized time during their careers to raise their children. This provides two periods that from an economic standpoint women are at a disadvantage affecting their long-term prospects.
These cultural and economic factors mean that for women who are in relationships with partners or married, it is important to ensure estate planning maximizes monies to these ladies while minimizing payment to others like attorneys and/or the courts. This starts with ensuring the estate is looked at from an objective point of view to eliminate reliance on empty promises that someone else will “take care of me.”
Our firm has many stories of these promises gone wrong. The story ends the same way with the one thinking they are to be taken care of (often at a point in life when they do need that most) faces a harsh reality. The way around this is to consult with an attorney ahead of time to ensure all is as it should be for a particular situation.