According to the 2020 U.S. Census, around 36 million people are living alone. Among the adults that are aged 60 or above, around 27% are living alone. While this may come as a surprise to some, there are many benefits to living alone and many have chosen this lifestyle for themselves. However, whether or not they have chosen to live alone, solo aging adults should take some things into consideration regarding their estate planning processes. Successful solo agers are the ones that are prepared, including planning financially and legally for their future.
Who is Considered a “Solo Ager”?
A solo ager is a member of the community that is socially and physically isolated from others. They may also not have any known family members. While aging alone is not a particularly unique experience, many solo aging adults still maintain their independence, as well as their mental capacity. For elderly individuals, aging alone is quite common as many are single, widowed, or have been divorced. However, other members of the community may also identify as a solo ager. This may include married couples that do not have children or those who have children that live far away. Those who are a solo ager have special considerations when they are estate planning.
Choosing a Power of Attorney Agent
When choosing a power of attorney, individuals will often look to their friends and family members as a first choice. However, as a solo ager, your options may be even more limited on who can take on this task for you. Keep in mind that this is a very important obligation and not a position that should be taken lightly. When deciding on a power of attorney, consider these questions to ask yourself about your candidate:
- Does this person know how to responsibly manage investments or finances?
- Could this person outlive you?
- Does this person have experience liquidating assets and paying off debts?
- Is this person organized and reliable?
What if I Don’t Have a Family Member or Friend to Name as Executor?
The executor of your estate will handle court proceedings, distribution of your assets, sale of your property, and deal with banks. If you do not name an executor, the state will handle your case and determine how to divide your assets. Even if you do not have a family member or friend to choose, you can still name someone as your executor. For instance, you could choose an accountant, attorney, or even a financial planner. Since this would require you to choose someone you may not know, it is imperative to take steps to ensure that this person would be able to properly take care of your estate and follow your wishes to the best of their ability while following state and federal laws.
Making a Living Will
In the case that a solo ager is incapacitated and cannot make medical decisions for themselves soundly, they will want to have some measures in place. These documents will help you express your wishes to your family to help avoid a stressful or even combative situation. Although it is sometimes difficult to think about an end of life situation, it is essential to plan for these health events before they occur. This is where a living will comes in and is different from a traditional will. It can also be referred to as a healthcare directive. A living will gives the solo ager the ability to choose someone to legally make medical decisions for them on their behalf. Some decisions that are part of a living will might include administering antibiotics, palliative care, and ventilation.
What if I Don’t Have Any Heirs?
One essential part of estate planning is determining how your assets will be divided. In most cases, those who are creating an estate plan directly name beneficiaries. This is usually their spouse, children, or close friends. A common misconception is that you have to leave your estate to someone in your family. You can actually leave your assets to anyone you want, including a charity or even your pet.
If there are no beneficiaries or heirs listed on your estate planning documents, then the state will decide how your assets are divided. This could mean that your final wishes are not granted. Instead, if you do not have any heirs you wish to name, there are other options.
- Charitable remainder trusts. These are considered irrevocable trusts and the donor would receive an income stream for the trust for years. The designated charity would receive the remaining assets once the donor has passed.
- Donor-advised funds. The donor makes a tax-deductible cash contribution of appreciated noncash assets. .
- Private foundations. A charitable organization that is founded typically by an individual or a family. A board of directors usually manages the disposition of assets.
Hire a Professional
As a solo aging adult, you will want someone who is trustworthy and organized handling your estate. In some cases, aging adults turn to hiring professional services to better meet these needs, as they can then be assured that their estate is being handled adequately. A professional estate attorney knows the ins and outs of handling these affairs. This includes everything from itemizing assets to locating beneficiaries. When searching for a professional, consider creating an estate planning team that is a combination of family, friends, and estate planning professionals that have your primary goals at the forefront.
Schedule a Consultation with a Estate Planning Attorney
Creating a plan today can help solo aging adults avoid uncertainty in the future. Establishing an estate plan when you are a solo aging adult allows you to exercise your independence to provide guidance for a smooth process regarding your wishes. At Galanti & Copenhaver, our team provides our clients with an individualized experience. We will work alongside you to understand what will best meet your needs, as well as devise a plan on how to get there. Call today to schedule an initial consultation with a member of our experienced team.