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Women need to plan ahead to avoid this ‘perfect storm’

Old woman

If you’re a woman born between 1960 and 1962, you can expect to live 6.3 years longer than your male counterpart, but with these years come extra challenges.

That’s according to Australian Unity Trustees executive general manager Emma Sakellaris and wills and estates accredited specialist Anna Hacker.

Speaking in Sydney on Wednesday, the two explained that as women often outlive their partners, if they don’t have a strong estate plan in place, they could be at risk of a perfect storm.

Ms Sakellaris explained: “We [women] do live, often much longer than our male counterparts, which does place women in quite a vulnerable position, particularly if they're reliant on family, as far as housing and as far as care.”

Ms Hacker gave the example of an older woman who wanted to change her will but felt she couldn’t because she was living with her children, and feared that if the new will upset her children then she would be kicked out.

“So, she's having pressure put on her to not do what she wants to do because she's reliant on her children,” she said.

“I think that creates a perfect storm for elder abuse and that's something where there's a lot of parents out there living in granny flats, and sometimes it works but there need to be pretty strict agreements in place because when something goes wrong it goes very wrong.”

Continuing, she noted that all of the similar cases in which a parent has been living in a granny flat have involved the mother.

Ms Sakelleris added that as women live longer, the likelihood of intergenerational conflicts arise.

“I talk about this all the time, the new generation whose parents are living longer think that it's essentially their right to take money from their parents because they have to wait so long for the inheritance, so they don't understand why they can't just simply access the money,” she said.

To Ms Hacker, there's an issue with the support available to older women. She commented, “It's devastating but we are seeing it with women more and more, everyone is living longer [and] they're needing support and there's not maybe that connection with getting that support out there.”

Ms Hacker said no one ever wants to believe that family relationships will break down, or that a partner will die prematurely, but that like prenuptials agreements it’s important to engage with unpleasant possibilities.

“We are seeing a growing number of cases where people set up these structures and think they're all alright, but then someone passes away and it all goes down the gurgler,” she said.

“It has to be done when you have capacity but what we usually see is that people don't want to anticipate that something is going to go wrong.

"A well-prepared estate plan, developed with both partners when they are fit and healthy, is one of the best ways of avoiding this kind of 'worst case' scenario, and protecting women as they age."

Women need to plan ahead to avoid this ‘perfect storm’
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