An essential part of estate planning is determining how to pass wealth and assets along to a spouse, children and grandchildren. However, some choose not to have children or outlived them. Another common option is children are unavailable or incapable of taking care of the parent. Once their spouse passes or they divorce, these older individuals become what retirement experts call “solo agers.”
Risks that solo agers face
There is a greater risk of financial exploitation, feelings of isolation, or unsafe conditions. With no one checking in regularly, solo agers often are left on their own long after a family member would typically intervene. There is no one to monitor:
- Their ability to safely operate a car
- Their daily activities and ability to care for themselves
- Their ability to find or hire help to maintain a home or provide care
- Their bank accounts and credits cards to ensure that no one takes advantage of them
- Their ability to pay bills and other living expenses
- Their circle of friends, which may dwindle because of the aging and death of others
Three steps to building a safety net
Solo agers may not have an active family unit, but they can take measures to ensure their ongoing happiness, safety and well-being:
Build your community: Strengthen ties to nieces, nephews and other distant family members, particularly if they are local and interested in building a stronger relationship. Cultivate social circles with coffee or lunch groups, neighbors or those with the same hobbies. These relationships tend to make people feel connected and happier.
Pick the right living space: Living somewhere where a person needs to drive can become problematic. Not everyone wants to live in a retirement community, but many find peace of mind in using them. Another option is choosing a home where more services within easy walking distance or neighborhoods that have a high number of retirees.
Hire or enlist guardians: It is crucial to find someone reliable and trustworthy to make decisions if the solo ager becomes ill or incapacitated. Estate law attorneys or financial advisors may be able to provide clients with recommendations for professional guardians or other professionals who can provide necessary services.
Planning should be done ahead of time
It is best for solo agers to make these kinds of decisions long before they become a necessity, perhaps as part of their estate planning. This enables them to look after their own best interests now and into the future.