While many older Americans, who are 65 and older, experience a range of challenges as they age, adults who lack the historically traditional support system of a spouse and/or adult children may face even greater challenges. These older Americans are commonly referred to as “solo agers”. The options available to make routine or major decisions related to financial, healthcare, and housing for adults who lack the requisite legal capacity to make these decisions themselves generally require another person or entity to step into the shoes of the person who lacks capacity. In these situations, solo agers must plan accordingly or risk having their autonomy determined by circumstance or a court.
Long-Term Care Planning Challenges for Solo Agers
There are several essential challenges in establishing and implementing a long-term care plan that exist for solo agers as well as those individuals in a historically traditional family. The biggest difference in long-term care planning for solo agers is that some of their concerns are more heightened, the planning options may be more limited, and there may not be a backup plan.
When considering long-term care planning for solo agers some common issues that must be addressed include, but are not limited to, identifying adequate housing, paying for the cost of long-term care, identifying fiduciaries, identifying caregivers, risk of abuse, providing continued care for children with special needs and pets, coordinating, and attending meetings with financial and health care professionals, and understanding the family tree.
Lifetime Planning for Solo Agers
The most basic and fundamental elements to estate and long-term care planning for older Americans to consider are lifetime planning and legacy planning. To plan for your lifetime, you should first determine who will make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated or need assistance. An experienced elder law attorney can provide recommendations about what legal documents are necessary to allow trusted relatives, friends, or professionals to make these kinds of decisions.
Legacy Planning for Solo Agers
Legacy planning, which is commonly known as estate planning, requires thinking about what is important to us and how we want to be remembered. The foundation for any estate plan is a Last Will and Testament (Will) but a better approach for solo agers is to establish a revocable living trust and fund the trust with their assets. The solo agers can be the trustee of the trust during their lifetimes and all the assets can be used for the benefit of the solo ager. Upon the solo ager’s death, the successor trustee(s) can collect and administer the assets of the trust according to the solo ager’s wishes that are spelled out in the trust without any court intervention without court involvement.
Solo agers can also establish beneficiary designations on all their financial accounts, retirement accounts, and insurance policies, which will allow the balance of the accounts to pass automatically to the beneficiary.
If you have questions or concerns about Estate Planning issues, please don’t hesitate to contact the Estate Planning Attorneys with Russo Law Group, P.C.