Lifetime Planning for Solo Agers

Often, we say that estate planning is about thinking about your family, but what if you don’t have family? Solo agers are a demographic that, although unique, are not uncommon. More and more we are seeing a widow or a widower, divorced, never married or an only child who has no siblings or children of their own or are estranged from their extended families. What then? Married couples rely on one another.  But what about a single person?

Well, no man is an island. Estate planning can also be about those friends who become family. Chances are that your best friend since high school, who has always been there for you, would not want you to go this alone. How about your niece or nephew? Or your cousin that was more like a sister? Do it for them… and do it for yourself, too.

Often, we are anchored by fear: fear of the unknown and the what ifs. You need to know that your fears will anchor you and make you stuck. But don’t let that happen. Chances are that if you are a solo ager, you are already pretty independent and are used to making decisions. Estate planning shouldn’t be any different. One of the things to help you to get going is to assemble a team for yourself. Choose only people who have your best interests at heart, who understand you and your priorities and will follow your wishes. Your team can include a friend/friends or extended family members, your doctor, nurse practitioner, your financial planner and, of course, your estate planning attorney. All these people should be on the same book and page with not only you but with each other.  You need people who may have to make tough decisions and won’t waffle from your wishes, even if it is contrary to what they may believe in. Being someone’s personal representative is a daunting undertaking sometimes, so make sure you choose someone who has the time and fortitude to do it.

Again, the best way to do all this is to have a plan in place for your estate. The way to start it is with foundational documents from an experienced elder law and estate planning attorney. These crucial documents are something that everyone over the age of 18 should have in place. To learn more please visit our informative videos.

Other documents to consider:

  • Trusts: Trusts are a wonderful way to protect your assets while alive and to also minimize tax implications after you have passed. It’s not uncommon for an individual to use a trust instead of a will for estate planning and stipulating what happens to their assets upon their death. Trusts are also a way to reduce tax burdens and avoid assets going to probate. A revocable trust and living trust are separate terms that describe the same thing: a trust in which the terms can be changed at any time. An irrevocable trust describes a trust that cannot be modified after it is created without the beneficiaries’ consent.
    • Solo agers are often interested in bequeathing some of their assets to a favored charity. A trust can be a useful tool to accomplish this.
    • Many solo agers are an owner of a beloved pet and will want them to be well cared for after they pass. Since a pet cannot inherit assets, a good solution is to create a trust that will assure their care and provide resources for that care.
  • Long Term Care Insurance Policy: Long term care insurance is important especially if you are single and have no one to care for you. With this, you can afford to age in place at your home or move into an assisted. Traditionally they are expensive, but there may be newer, hybrid products that may make it worth another look.
  • Pre-Paid Burial Plans: By preplanning and paying your burial, it gives a sense of relief. No one ever likes to think of their own mortality, but it is nice to know that those final details are prepared for.

The key to ensuring that you are prepared is to start planning sooner rather than later.

Answering the following questions can help you develop a structure for a plan that evolves with you as you grow older.

  • Have you taken the time to ask yourself “what matters most” to you? What constitutes a “good day” for you? Where do you want to focus your energy and passion as you live your life?
  • In what type of setting do you want to live? What environment and amenities will help you live your best life?
  • Have you considered finding a life care manager who can act as your advocate and advise you on the best medical care and lifestyle options available to meet your personal goals for living?
  • Do you have a health care proxy in place who will make sure your wishes for medical care are followed should you be unable to make your own decisions? Have you completed a MOLST (Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) to make your medical choices known? Read more about advance care planning on our blog.
  • Do you have a financial plan in place should you need additional resources, for instance to pay for an in-home caregiver or personal assistant?
  • Do you have adequate medical insurance, and are you aware of resources available to you if your financial resources are limited?
  • Do you have someone who has power of attorney to address financial or legal issues and make or help you make decisions, and do you trust this person to make decisions with your best interests in mind?
  • Are you thinking about estate planning? Where will your assets go? Do you have a favorite charity that could benefit from a gift from your estate?

Resources can be difficult to find. Let us introduce you to one! Skilled at patient advocacy, Beacon Patient Solutions LLC helps clients tackle the challenges of navigating today’s complex healthcare system by empowering our clients to become educated and confident health care consumers. They offer professional compassionate guidance to navigate complex systems. They can be a fantastic resource for those navigating solo aging. They can help you acquire the resources and facts to make informed decisions that reflect your personal values.

Ailene Gerhardt is the founder of Beacon Patient Solutions LLC and the Navigating Solo Network. She is an independent board-certified patient advocate, a national authority on solo aging, a solo aging educator and advocate. Here are the links where Ailene and her colleagues can be found:

As you can see, solo agers have a lot to consider.  As a solo ager, you don’t have to really do it alone. By contacting an experienced elder law and estate planning attorney such as Surprenant & Beneski, we can help guide you in all aspects of the law and help put you in touch with other professionals that can help you. The key is getting started. You can start today by calling one of our caring estate planning specialists. You will be glad that you did!