While important to both sexes, estate planning often affects women more profoundly. Women live longer on average and tend to marry older spouses, making them three times as likely as men to be widowed at 65. So for women, estate planning is a crucial part of retirement planning. And since they usually survive their spouses, women more often have the last word about how much wealth goes to family, charity or the taxman.
A fellow attorney (and award winning journalist) Deborah Jacobs recently authored an article in Forbes titled “Estate Planning for Women (And the Men who Love Them)” she indicated the below question is one every financially savvy woman should be able to answer.
What key deadlines apply when a spouse dies?
Starting in 2011, a surviving spouse can add any unused estate tax exclusion of the just deceased spouse to her own $5 million exclusion–this is called portability. So a widow can pass on as much as $10 million, untaxed, through either lifetime gifts or her will. But portability is not automatic. To get it, the executor of the estate of the first spouse to die must file an estate tax return, even if no tax is due. Surviving spouses should see to it that the form is filed even if they have nowhere near $5 million of their own, because who knows what the future holds?
Nine months is also the deadline if you plan to disclaim (turn down) any portion of what you inherited from a spouse so that it can go directly to your children or other family members or into a trust for their benefit. The new tax law makes it more likely that spouses will leave everything to each other outright. Other couples may want to give the survivor the right to disclaim at least some money and have it go into a family trust or bypass trust, as it is also called. This allows the survivor to make an informed decision based on her own financial resources and federal and state estate laws at that time. If you want to use this postmortem tax planning strategy, you need to keep an eye on the calendar.
Questions like this one can often trigger even more questions in your mind. Please accept my invitation to schedule a meeting where we can discuss this topic and others that might be relevant to your estate planning. Give my office a call to set a meeting.