As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the number of “elder orphans”—those who have no mate or grown children—is increasing significantly. In fact, AARP reports that “more than 1 in 5 Americans older than 65 are—or are at risk of becoming—elder orphans.” In addition, they state that “23 percent of boomers will eventually be without family caretakers.”
Because these individuals lack immediate family that would typically care or advocate for them as they age, it is critical for this segment of the population to create an estate plan.
Start Planning Early
It is never too soon to begin estate planning and especially important to do so when your health is good. You want to be able to control as much of your life as possible for as long as you can. As such, it’s important to begin making decisions about several things.
Estate planning professionals agree that one of the first steps you must take is assembling a reliable support team consisting of the following sources:
- An attorney: Your attorney will help you with all the legal documents you’ll need, such as your will, trusts, healthcare directives and power of attorney. Making these decisions now will give you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out even if there is not a family member around to stand up for your wishes. It’s also important to revisit these documents annually to make any necessary changes.
- A financial advisor: This person can assist you in financial planning for things such as long-term care, housing and paid caregivers to assist you with household chores, transportation to medical appointments, shopping and more. You might not have family around, but there are helpful and friendly options out there to provide you with the assistance you might need in the future.
- A healthcare surrogate: This person is the individual who ensures your medical providers follow your healthcare directive or advanced directive. This person need not be a relative, but you should feel that this is a trustworthy person who will advocate for you when it’s needed and honor your wishes.
- A power of attorney agent: Should you become incapacitated and require assistance in legal or financial matters, a POA will give an individual the authority to act on your behalf.
- An executor: In the process of making your will, you will need to name an executor. This person will handle details such as keeping your assets safe, paying off debts and creditors, paying final income taxes, and ensuring the proper distribution of your property as defined in your will. If you have no family to select as the executor, you could choose a trusted friend. If a friend is not an option, talk to an estate planning attorney about another trustworthy alternative.
- A social network: Many elder orphans feel isolated and alone, which often leads to diminished health. Building and maintaining a social network offers you the opportunity to help and be helped by friends who may be in the same circumstances as you. It can be a hard reality not having any family around; however, sometimes the best families are the families built through friendship and community connections.
Are You Ready to Begin?
If there’s one thing we all recognize as we grow older, it’s that time doesn’t stand still. Creating an estate plan now will allow you to confidently face the future independently and enjoy the years ahead of you. If you have questions or would like to begin the estate planning process, contact our team for more information or to schedule an appointment.