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Helping Elder Orphans Plan For Long-Term Care

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Elder Care Law Topics: The Elder Orphan


When you hear the word “orphan” it typically conjures up images of young children whose parents have either died, are unknown or have permanently abandoned them. However, the word is starting to be used for a growing segment of adults.

I recently read a Kiplinger article stating that, “As baby boomers age, the number of childless seniors, both couples and singles, is rising. Close to 19% of all women ages 80 to 84 will fall into that category in 2050, up from 16% in 2030, according to a study by the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Recent research by a geriatrician at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in New York coined a name for these seniors: “elder orphans.” https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/t023-c000-s004-childless-seniors-need-to-build-a-safety-net.html

This is an important demographic statistic since these men and women do not have the safety net that many other seniors take for granted. They don’t have adult children who monitor the signs of aging, nor anyone to help them navigate the complex system of health care, housing and social services.

Estate Planning and Elder Care Topics: Elder Orphans Need an Estate and Asset Management Plan

It is very important, if you are an elder orphan to plan ahead for your elder years and establish legal documents that will protect you should you become incapacitated.

Strategies To Consider For Your Elder Care and Estate and Asset Management Plan

As an elder orphan, the most important first step is to create a durable power of attorney and choose an agent to manage your financial, legal and tax affairs if and when you become unable to handle these tasks. Sometimes childless seniors will choose a relative, a niece or nephew, cousin or sibling or a trusted friend for this role. If you end up going this route, it is also important to consider the potential work that may be involved. With this in mind, you’ll want to include in your legal documents that the person handling your affairs should be compensated.

In the event you do not have someone reliable who can take on the job, the alternative is to set up a revocable trust and assign a bank or trust company as trustee. In this scenario, you move your assets to the trust, and the company would take on financial tasks you assign to it, including paying bills and caregivers, processing medical claims, and overseeing your home if you’re hospitalized or in a nursing facility. One of the benefits of assigning a bank or trust as an institutional trustee is that your chances of being abused are reduced as the majority of elder abuse is typically committed by family members.

Make Plans For Your Physical And Mental Health

Most people anticipate physical decline far more than mental health decline. However, it is important to make sure that you make provisions to have your mental health monitored as well as your physical health. Your legal documents can include provisions for hiring a geriatric care manager to conduct periodic evaluations and sending copies of the assessment to the person you choose as your health care agent.

Put Your Plan In Place

There is nothing like a global pandemic to make everyone more aware of the importance of planning for unexpected incapacity and possibly imminent death. For seniors who are childless and without other reliable family members, healthcare planning as well as estate and asset protection planning is even more important. If you would like to learn more about establishing legal documents for your care as an elder orphan, give us a call.