In India, there are enough reasons to believe that women are good at planning, arranging and executing things especially, which are long-term in nature. The very practice of saving from the funds given for household expenses shows how women are prudent enough in terms of managing money. Sadly though, in most Indian families, barring a few situations, most women do not play lead role in financial planning. However, if a woman has actively saved or earned through employment or vocation, and have acquired assets, then she must consider estate planning. This may sound too aggressive, especially if she has always been financially dependent on her family. But one cannot rule out the fact that women take care of soft capital of the family ,the value system and emotional balance, which ensures cohesive family ties through generations. Scientifically women live longer than men, which makes it even more essential for them to be financially prudent. Some of the main reasons why women should be actively involved in the estate planning include the following:
Safeguarding and supporting
Investments are made to ensure a better future. While a woman’s role was confined within the four walls for a long time, it was only during late 70s and early 80s that women started entering the main workforce.As she gradually became financially independent and accumulated wealth it became a necessity to protect and help her meet the needs. Estate planning can definitely come to rescue and women should embrace it by choice.
Nonetheless, in cases where women are financially dependent it becomes even more challenging, because, money matters often move into the hands of the eldest male member of the family, upon the death of the patriarch. This leads to a major compromise on the woman’s financial support. The paucity of own funds in old age can make a woman’s life miserable. On the other hand, if a woman is involved in estate planning, her financial support can be ensured.
Ignorance is not always a bliss
Salaried individuals earn their money every month and tend to invest over a period of time. Businessmen and self-employed professionals also tend to build their wealth over a period of time. Investments are mostly spread across various asset classes and a consolidated view of one’s assets may not be available with the family. Sudden death of the breadwinner can add to the woes and in case of homemakers, the situation can be worse.
Estate planning process and an active involvement of women in it, helps the family to consolidate the list of assets and make all concerned aware of the whereabouts of the assets and how to use them.
Review estate planning at regular intervals; typically once in two years. If financial position of the family member changes that needs to be incorporated in the will. The inventory of assets and intended distribution of assets change, which influences one’s desires towards how the assets should be disposed. Hence, one needs to update her will and inform rest of the family. Women in the family need to be cautious regarding the revised documents so as to ensure that the transfer of assets transpires smoothly.
For the solo trippers
Single woman might have received assets from her parents or have acquired assets in her lifetime through employment or business. An unmarried woman may choose to bequeath her assets to certain friends or charitable organisations. However, there is always a need for documentation. Failing which, the personal succession laws will dictate who will receive the assets. If you are separated from your partner (legally or otherwise), you have to be extremely careful with theestate planning. You probably do not want this person inheriting from you, so make sure to update your documents after you separate.
Before going for estate planning, ensure that you have a will and nominations in place along with all the documents. At the end of the day, whatever you choose to, maintain clarity in communication with everyone.
The author is the Head, Trust and Estate Planning, Motilal Oswal Private Wealth Management