Estate planning is about wealth structuring so that one could enjoy it and then pass it to the next generation in a smooth manner, avoiding any kind of family disputes on inheritance.
While discussing estate planning for women, we could broadly classify women of this century into two categories. First, women who are primarily homemakers, are dependent on their spouses or parents and do not own many assets in their name though they may inherit assets. Second, those who are working and have acquired assets. For both categories’ estate planning becomes important due to different reasons.
Women who do not contribute directly to the workforce, do enjoy inheritance rights under our legal system and are eligible to inherit from their spouses, parents, children, etc.
In fact, under Hindu law, a mother has a right to inherit from her son to the exclusion of father as class I legal heir. Women may not contribute directly but their indirect role helps in building the family wealth and they are entitled to enjoy this wealth (under maintenance rights) and inherit it. Therefore, it becomes crucial for a woman to know about her inheritance rights and exercise the same.
The second category, where women have entered the workforce and have acquired their wealth would need to put down an estate plan to distribute this wealth after their lifetime. If they fail to put down an estate plan, the assets will be distributed as per the prevailing succession laws and not as per their wishes.
According to statistics, the life expectancy of a woman is higher than men by approximately 4 to 5 years, and women are more likely to be widowed than men. Because they live longer, may not have earned as much, women need to plan for their retirement wherein her inheritance could be useful. If a woman lives longer and inherits from her spouse, then ultimately, she would need to distribute these assets between her children under her Will.
All the women should take this initiative to create their estate plan, get their Wills prepared, decide how to distribute their assets between the family, whom to appoint as the guardian for minor children, etc. Assume responsibility for your estate and if you are married, then encourage your spouse and work jointly to meet shared goals regarding retirement planning, distribution of assets between children, etc.
Every woman should take the lead and encourage her spouse and other family members to put in place a succession plan and work with them by providing valuable perspective so that the family wealth is preserved, is fairly distributed and continues to grow across generations.