The life you live can become difficult emotionally and financially after your spouse passes. It can become even more daunting, if there was never a frank discussion about the family’s estate and financial planning. You need to ask questions now, to avoid additional turmoil later on.

An overwhelming majority of American women will have to bear responsibility for their own financial security by virtue of widowhood, divorce or choosing to remain single. Women tend to earn less money than men and work fewer years on average. Women who are currently retired or nearing retirement are less likely to have been eligible for pensions than are men in their age groups.

You owe it to yourself, and your families, to ensure you are financially secure. I also advise, not to sign any waivers of spousal rights without a sound understanding and financial reason to do so. Do not assume your husband, father or boyfriend has taken care of your estate plan, or has done this with all factors considered.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you know what property you own personally?
  • Do you know how your assets are titled?
  • Do you own property jointly or are they in your husband’s name?
  • Do you have a will or trust and does it include your wishes?
  • What are your individual and combined debts? Are you liable for his debts?
  • Will you be liable for his credit card debt upon his death?
  • If his business fails, do you lose your home?
  • Who is the beneficiary of his life insurance, IRA, or pension plan?
  • Will you receive a portion of your husband’s social security upon his death?
  • What long-term health care insurance do you have?
  • Are securities portfolios in your name also?
  • Have all savings and checking accounts been placed in joint names?

Women live longer, which means they are likely to become widowed and live on their own for a number of years. Without proper estate planning while married, many will see their standard of living reduced during their retirement years.

Those in second marriages will need estate planning that provides for them but does not disinherit children from the previous marriage. It is abundantly clear, that a woman, who has participated in the planning process when a spouse was alive, feels more secure and empowered to cope with the change of being on their own. Be Educated! Be Proactive!