Elder Orphans: “An older person who is socially or physically isolated, without an available family member or caregiver to help them manage aging.”
A recent study from the University of Michigan found that an estimated 22% of all American over 65-years-old are at a significant risk of becoming an elder orphan. This is mainly due to the amount of people within the Baby Boomer generation choosing not to marry or have children, but it also applies to those people who lose a spouse and/or child at a young age.
Elder orphans are people who do not have any family members, spouses or friends they can rely upon as they go through their end of life planning. This is not always a negative experience for people as they age, but elder orphans have been known to be at a much higher risk of mental illnesses like anxiety or depression. They also don’t have advocates to help them when they undergo serious surgeries and terminal illnesses.
This article will answer why end of life planning is important, how elder orphans should pursue end of life plans and where assets go for elder orphans.
Why is end of life planning important for elder orphans?
End of life planning is essential for everyone, and that includes elder orphans who may not necessarily know how to allocate their assets through a will or living trust.
As we age, we are constantly considering how or where we are going to retire, and that’s no different for elder orphans, but retirement planning shouldn’t only pertain to financial responsibility. Some of the matters that require attention while planning for retirement include the following:
- Maintaining mental and physical health
- Healthcare coverage
- Saving enough money and investing properly
- Outliving your money
- Long-term care needs
- Social Security
Elder orphans are more likely to suffer from loneliness, social isolation and low social support and interaction, all of which are closely connected to increased mortality rates. Because elder orphans could be at risk, it’s important for elder orphans to plan for the future as soon as possible and establish all of the necessary paperwork and legal rights to create a support system that works for them.
How should elder orphans pursue end of life plans?
There are several similarities to how elder orphans should pursue their end of life plans as compared to those who have familial support, but there are also some distinctions for elder orphans that are very important to consider. The following steps are what elder orphans must consider for their end of life plans:
- Save money — If you don’t have family to help you then you might need to hire someone to get you to and from your doctor appointments, cook your meals, etc.
- Get legal documents handled — It’s crucial to have an estate planning attorney help with drawing up a will, living trust, health care proxy or any other legal document that will help you manage your finances and important healthcare decisions.
- Get organized financially — Documenting assets, consolidating accounts and getting ready to have your bills easily paid without any hassles (as well as keeping this confidential information in the rights hands) is all crucial just in case you need help financially.
- Obtain a health care surrogate — You can choose anyone to be your surrogate, and it doesn’t have to be a family member. Write out as much as you can and be on the same page with your surrogate in terms of what you want to happen within certain circumstances.
- Stay Social — Just because you may not have a family doesn’t mean your friends can’t be your family, so be a good friend and your friends will reciprocate your kindness when the time comes.
- Plan for long-term care treatment — Looking into communal living options and organizations as well as keeping certain institutions in mind always goes a long way for your later years. Long-term care insurance is always a good option for everyone.
- Create your advisory team — This can include financial advisers, attorneys, accountants and other professionals.
- Stay Active — It’s more important to exercise and prevent health problems from beginning when you live alone.
Where do elder orphans’ assets go?
The assets of elder orphans can go to whomever they want in terms of who they establish as their beneficiaries in their will. If an elder orphan doesn’t have an established will, their assets will go to probate court where the state’s laws will distinguish who obtains the elder orphan’s assets and how that occurs.
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.
With thanks to contributor Susan Forbes, Esq. of Forbes & Forbes probate and estate planning. Susan Forbes is a highly rated and experienced probate attorney in El Paso, Texas. She has been practicing law since 1989, fluent in Spanish, and licensed to practice law in California and Texas.