All About Estates

Sisters Need to Do It For Themselves

For today’s blog, I have asked a colleague of mine, Heela Donsky, to write about estate planning for women:

News sources across north America are replete with headlines describing men’s decreasing mortality rates.  The fact is that statistically, women continue to outlive men.  In the context of estate planning, what does this mean for the surviving widow?

Often, the husband handles the family finances and estate planning matters.  This may simply be to maintain the status quo (i.e. the husband has been handling such matters for 30 years, why change now?), or because the wife is simply not interested in taking part. 

In situations of sudden death, the widow may end up riddled with uncertainties as to what to do, where to go and who to speak with, during the time she ought to be concerned solely with mourning her loss.  This is particularly the case where the husband did not communicate his wishes to his wife prior to passing.  In turn, this results in a slew of uncertainties following the husband’s death, including whether the husband has a will, the location of the will, whether the husband has life insurance, with which carrier(s) and so on. Bank accounts and safety deposit boxes will be inaccessible until the will is located and the executors of the estate are confirmed.  

Obviously, taking time to locate the will leads to further delays in the administration of the estate.  Moreover, where the wife relied on the deceased husband for financial support, she may be left with quickly depleting funds after satisfying funeral expenses and unpaid bills until the will is found and probated.  A recent blog written by Laura West provides helpful hints for finding a deceased’s last will.  A widow who is knowledgeable of her family’s estate plans can continue the plan, whereas a woman who did not participate in her family’s plan will require an education on the planning process and related implications. 

But widows are not the only women who need to be involved in their estate planning – all women need planning.  Single mothers should address continuing care for children and other loved ones.  Female professionals such as accountants, lawyers and doctors may need asset protection planning.  Businesswomen should address the succession of their business – after all, you worked so hard to build it!  

There are several estate planning texts being marketed directly to women including “The Women’s Estate Planning Guide: Techniques for Protecting Yourself and your Family” by Zoe M. Hicks and “Smart Women Protect Their Assets: Essential Information for Every Woman about Wills, Trusts, and More” by Wynne A. Whitman.  Such gender specific texts indicate that women are educating themselves in the area of estate planning and becoming more involved in their own plans and/or their family’s plans.

Sisters, it’s time to get involved in your estate planning – do it for yourself!  As the great Aretha Franklin sings:

“Sisters are doin’ it for themselves.
Standin’ on their own two feet.
And ringin’ on their own bells.
Sisters are doin’ it for themselves.”

Thanks for reading

Heela Donsky

About Corina Weigl
Corina Weigl is a partner in the Trusts, Wills, Estates and Charities group at Fasken, a leading international law firm with over 650 lawyers and 9 offices worldwide that offers comprehensive estate planning, estate administration, personal tax planning, charitable giving and estate litigation services. Email: