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Corporate America is rapidly evolving, if not exactly into a woman’s world, to a more gender-neutral world.

The number of women-owned firms worth $10 million+ has increased by 57 percent, compared with a close-to-50-percent growth rate for such firms overall. The number of angels investing in women-led businesses increased by more than 40 percent in 2012 from the previous year and by an additional 20 percent in 2013, as of the first half of the year.

Professional women, and women in general, are not defined by their salary or title; rather, they are defined by their personal goals, relationships and accomplishments beyond their wealth. Whether an executive, entrepreneur, academic or philanthropist, the professional woman is constantly evaluating life and business choices and trade-offs, and prioritizing and reprioritizing her personal and financial goals.

Don’t let the fact that you have limited time deter you from tackling these important considerations.

Now is the time to turn the focus and energy that allowed you to attain your professional goals toward putting together a power team of professionals to complement your strengths and weaknesses.

We cannot all be experts in everything we do, so be sure to seek advice from good counsel, whether female or male. Involve your family and advisers in legacy planning. If you are married, then planning can become a team sport. If you are not, then find another professional, be it a financial adviser, accountant or attorney, to bounce off ideas and concerns.

It is important that you reflect on your goals, personal and financial, and prioritize them. For example:

  • Determine how you define wealth and how you want to provide for your family and other loved ones.
  • Consider business succession planning and whether any of your children will follow in your footsteps.

You have worked hard to amass significant wealth; you should be as smart and diligent in planning for your future goals.

You may want to consider educating your children early and incorporating your goals into a family mission statement, which can also form the basis for the family’s legacy through a family charitable foundation.

Finally, as a woman, you will likely be faced with making important health care decisions for yourself, your significant other and for aging parents. It is therefore critical to have appropriate health care directives and proper powers of attorney in place in the event of incapacity. It may be appropriate to look into long-term care insurance or life insurance held outside the taxable estate, especially in order to provide for aging parents that survive you.

Proper planning also requires an evaluation of your assets, the most complicated of which may be your family business or your interest in a closely held or public company as an officer, board member or partial owner.

It is important to review any shareholder or operating agreements to determine what happens upon death and if there is enough liquidity to pay estate taxes without having to sell the family business. If you are the recipient of options, deferred compensation arrangements or company life insurance, it is equally important to determine how and when these benefits are paid out.

Remember that you are not alone in this process. The most important step is the first one. As the saying goes, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.

Gunster, Florida’s law firm for business, provides full-service legal counsel to leading organizations and individuals from its 11 offices statewide. Established in 1925, the firm has expanded, diversified and evolved, but always with a singular focus: Florida and its clients’ stake in it. A magnet for business-savvy attorneys who embrace collaboration for the greatest advantage of clients, Gunster’s growth has not been at the expense of personalized service but because of it. The firm serves clients from its offices in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Palm Beach, Stuart, Tallahassee, Tampa, The Florida Keys, Vero Beach and its headquarters in West Palm Beach. With more than 160 attorneys and 200 committed support staff, Gunster is ranked among the National Law Journal’s list of the 350 largest law firms. More information about its practice areas, offices and insider’s view newsletters is available at www.gunster.com.

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