Estate planning considerations for 'solo agers'

Many baby boomers are entering their senior years without a family. They chose not to have children and never married (or are divorced or widowed.) Experts say that these seniors can suffer from isolation and poor health, including malnutrition if they don't take steps to care for themselves and to socialize.

An even bigger concern for seniors who don't have family or a support system of friends is that they have no one to look out for them if they become ill or disabled. Further, they can become victims of financial exploitation by people who claim to care for them but really just want to get ahold of their money or get an inheritance when they die.

"Solo agers" also tend to remain in their own home rather than move to an assisted living facility where they can be around people their own age and be properly cared for when they have health issues. One retirement coach says that people in these long-term care facilities tend to be there at the urging of their children.

Older people don't have to enter long-term care if they're able to live on their own and take care of themselves (with or without a home care worker). However, experts recommend building your own community of people who will be there if you need them.

A well-thought-out estate plan is essential for seniors who are on their own. If you don't have children or other family members, you need to determine whom you want to make medical decisions for you should you become incapacitated or see that the wishes in your health care directive are carried out.

In addition to someone with power of attorney (POA) for your health care, you should designate a POA for your finances. You need someone responsible and trustworthy who will pay your bills and take care of your financial obligations if you're unable to. If there's no one in your life whom you trust with these responsibilities, you can hire a fiduciary. Arizona, unlike most states, has licensed fiduciaries. You can also choose a professional to be the executor of your estate.

If you don't designate anyone for these responsibilities, a court will assign someone who likely doesn't know you and may not have your best interests at heart. Talk with your family law attorney to make sure that you have done all of the necessary planning to protect yourself and your assets.

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