Did you know that a study from the Pew Research Center says about 20% of the 75 million baby boomers don’t have children—a figure that’s double what it was in the 1970s and one that’s expected to keep rising.
We mention this because these people need someone to count on to always be there if they need help making decisions and managing their affairs as they get older.
NH Magazine’s recent article entitled “The Difficulties That Come with Solo Aging” says that, for those without children or parents who are estranged from them, it’s frequently a tough question to answer.
Our country’s 15 million “solo agers” or “elder orphans” now comprise a demographic that’s unprecedented in American history. This relatively new segment of society has a unique set of challenges.
As your physical, intellectual, and emotional capacities diminish, a person on their own must determine how they will be able to make sound decisions on financial and legal issues, relationships, housing and healthcare. There are also more cases being reported of elder fraud, and new scams are designed to take money from seniors. An elderly person could also wind up lonely and penniless.
However, there is help. Professional guardians can assist the elderly in reviewing their financial statements, creating budgets, paying bills, keeping them organized and sorting mail and email to see what’s a legitimate bill or a solicitation or potential scam.
A guardianship, and/or a conservatorship, is a legal process that’s used when a senior can no longer make or communicate safe or sound decisions about their person and/or their property. The fact that establishing a guardianship can remove substantial rights from a person means that it should only be considered after other alternatives have proven ineffective or are unavailable.
In addition to a court-ordered guardianship, there are other options. There are also certified geriatric care managers, certified daily money managers, as well as attorneys who specialize in elder law.
Solo agers should arrange a future legal guardianship for themselves, a person who will assume control in a fiduciary capacity, if they’re unable to make decisions for themselves. This may be a relative or a friend, as well as a professional fiduciary or private guardian. Another solution is to create a trust naming you as trustee now, but appoints a successor trustee to take control over your property and financial affairs when you can’t. A trust will avoids the need for the court to be involved with the handling of your financial affairs.
In addition, everyone should have a healthcare directive and an estate plan. However, solo agers have a more urgent need to have these important documents in place, while they’re still somewhat young and healthy—because they don’t have an adult child who will fly in from the other side of the country to provide that assistance and guidance.
Talk to several potential guardians or fiduciaries and go with the one whose skills most closely fit your needs, and with whom you feel the most comfortable. Check their references and credentials thoroughly. You can also select different people for different tasks, which gives you a critical system of checks and balances. Be certain that you understand exactly what services each will provide and their fees and get it all in writing.
Lastly, work with an elder law attorney to be sure you are moving in the right direction.
For more information on this and other estate planning topics, visit our website today to schedule your consultation!
Reference: NH Magazine (October 2018) “The Difficulties That Come With Solo Aging”