The U.S. Census Bureau reports nearly a third of all seniors live alone—about 14 million—some of whom don’t have children or anyone to care for them if they need help. However, according to a recent article from Forbes, “Essentials for the Solo Ager,” everything is fine until there’s a problem. This is especially true when the solo ager’s friends are all about the same age and in the same situation.
One financial adviser asked an estate planning attorney to contact a client who was 88, living alone, still driving and maintaining her own home. She had an inadequate estate plan done for free by a volunteer at her senior center and needed a Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney. In addition, her only living relative lived outside of the United States, and the person she relied upon was a 90-year-old, legally blind neighbor. All of this had worked fine for years, but at 88, she was highly vulnerable.
Here are some options for solo agers to consider while planning constructively for the future:
Consider naming a fiduciary to handle finances in your estate plan, which an experienced estate planning attorney should prepare.
Healthcare decisions are often a minefield for someone who is cognitively or physically impaired and unable to make decisions. Some professionals can be named as your healthcare agent, preferably someone who knows the healthcare system and can advocate for you if you are incapacitated. In addition, a healthcare power of attorney would be needed.
Make your wishes and preferences clear in your estate planning documents, so someone who does not know you well can follow your specific directions and fulfill your wishes.
Give up the idea of being 100% well until you pass. Most seniors unfortunately experience one or more health challenges and need more assistance than they ever imagined. Be realistic and identify younger adults who will be able to help you and give them the legal tools to do so. If they never need to help you, fantastic, but if they do, you’ll be glad to have their help.
Single people are independent and self-reliant and take pride in these characteristics. This is great. However, there comes a time when none of us can be independent. No one likes to think about losing their independence or becoming disabled. However, planning will keep you safer rather than hoping for the best.
Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney who will help you plan for your future and protect you from the unexpected.
Reference: Forbes (March 26, 2023) “Essentials for the Solo Ager”