By Attorney Michelle D. Beneski, Managing Partner, CELA, LLM in Taxation
Surprenant & Beneski
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, is 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?
Estate planning can also be about those friends who become family. Chances are that your best friend would not want you to go this alone. How about a niece or neph-ew? Or a cousin that is more like a sister? Do it for them and for your-self, too.
If you are a solo ager, you are already independent and are used to making decisions. Estate planning shouldn’t be any different.
One of the things to help is to assemble a team for yourself. Choose only people who have your best interests at heart, who under-stand you and your priorities and will follow your wishes. Your team can include a friend, extended family, your doctor, your financial planner and your estate planning attorney. All should be on the same book and page with you and with each other.
You need people who will make tough decisions and will honor your wishes. Being a personal representative is daunting, so make sure you choose someone who can do it.
The best way to do all this is to have a plan in place for your estate. The way to start it is with founda-tional documents from an elder law and estate planning attorney. These documents are something that everyone over the age of 18 should have in place.
Other documents to consider:
Trusts: Protect assets while alive and minimize taxes after you have passed. Trusts reduce tax burdens and avoid probate.
Long Term Care Insurance Policy: This is important 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 assisted living.
Pre-Paid Burial Plans: It is nice to know that those final details are prepared for.
The key to ensuring that you are prepared is to start planning soon-er rather than later.
Answering the following questions can help you develop a structure for a plan that evolves with you as you grow older:
• Ask yourself “what matters most” to you.
• What type of setting do you want to live in?
• Consider finding a life care manager who will be an advocate and advise you on the best medical care and lifestyle options to meet your personal goals.
• Have a health care proxy in place.
• Working with your physician, complete a MOLST (Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment) to make your medical choices known.
• Have a financial plan in place should you need additional resources to pay for an in-home caregiver.
• Do you have adequate medical insurance, and are you aware of resources available to you if your financial resources are limited?
• Do you have a trusted person to be your power of attorney to address financial or legal issues?
Solo agers have a lot to consider but you don’t have to do it alone. Contacting an elder law and estate planning attorney to help guide you is a great start. You will be glad that you did!