The “Silver Tsunami” Is Coming; Is Your Estate in Order?
When it comes to estate planning, attorneys are increasingly working with “solo silvers” from what is known as the “silver tsunami.” A silver tsunami is the term created by demographers and economists to explain the dramatic age shift in the human population from the Baby Boomer generation hitting the retirement age.
Some 80 million individuals will enjoy their 65th birthdays by 2040, with another 14 million celebrating their 85th year. Since people are arguably living longer than ever before, the chances of these individuals living alone during their golden years is high. Spouses, partners, family members, and friends die, meaning long-lived people are more likely to not only live alone, but not have anyone to tend to their medical needs. As a result, these “silver seniors” need to focus more than ever on estate planning.
How estate planning benefits the solo senior
An older person who lives alone should consider consulting an estate planning attorney for several reasons, and most of them have to do with paperwork. We know how that sounds, but it’s true: the legal documentation you put in place can help protect your wishes AND your family and loved ones, well into the future. There are a few things you need for a strong estate plan:
- First, a lawyer can help the solo senior create a last will and testament. This document outlines the senior’s assets and names the beneficiaries who will receive them upon their death.
- Second, an advance directive outlines what the senior desires in the event of their incapacitation for any reason. Most advance directives provide instructions regarding blood transfusions, resuscitation efforts, life support, and other end-of-life issues. Many people who create advance directives seek counsel from their doctors, in addition to their attorneys, regarding what information to include.
- Finally, we can help you create trusts. A trust is an asset set aside for a beneficiary, who receives it either upon the owner’s death or when they reach a certain age, such as 18 or 21. The money remains unavailable until either of these events. It is not uncommon for individuals with multiple sizable assets to create trusts for their beneficiaries.
Most people name their children as their beneficiaries. However, if you do not have any children, you must decide who among your other family members should be your beneficiaries, as well as whether any charities should enter the financial mix. We strongly suggest you choose someone or some entity, if only to keep the state from taking everything you worked so hard to build. (More on this in a bit.)
But for the older person living alone or without a spouse or children, it may not be immediately apparent who those beneficiaries could be. The good news is, it’s your money and your estate: you can name anyone you like. For example, some people might decide to name some extended family members as their main beneficiaries (even if they’re not close to them, but still want certain family heirlooms to stay within the family) and some give some of their assets away to their favorite charities. Common beneficiaries for seniors who do not have children, spouses, or siblings include, but are not limited to:
- Close friends who are like family
- Educational institutions (or organizations awarding grant or scholarship money)
- Cultural institutions
- Animal shelters
- Non-profit groups
You can also designate money for organizations or local programs via a trust. If you want to help support your local school or library, or help keep open spaces for parks, you can set assets aside for that reason.
Planning for future medical needs and living assistance with care management agencies
If you plan to continue living alone, you might want to look at a care management agency. Care management agencies provide healthcare assistance to members of the silver tsunami generation. These agencies frequently charge high fees but provide care in the form of nurses, social workers, and licensed caregivers. Seniors who form relationships with their selected agencies while they are of sound mind can provide specific instructions about their care, such as what they prefer regarding their housing and day-to-day needs. Some may elect to provide their chosen agencies with the advance directive documents they created for reference purposes. Many individuals who create advance directives also furnish copies to their primary care physicians, lawyers, and powers of attorney. POAs make healthcare and/or potentially financial decisions on your behalf, usually in the event of incapacitation. There are a lot of options for what a POA can and cannot do, which we can discuss with you.
Note: CMAs aren’t the only option, of course. While most folks think of nursing homes and assisted living facilities as places where we get “put” by our loved ones, there’s no reason why you could not seek out such a living situation voluntarily. That’s something to discuss with your attorney as well.
How estate planning helps solo seniors keep their assets out of the state’s coffers
Without named beneficiaries and other estate planning practices, your assets become the property of Tennessee. As a result, the state determines who receives the assets in probate court. If you have those extended family members (or other individuals or groups) who were promised certain assets, but those promises were not legally addressed in a will, the chances are good that they may never get them. And even if they do, your assets can be tied up for months in the probate process (If you’re stuck in this process now, we can help with that.).
Knowing that all final wishes will be carried out exactly as directed allows a senior to enjoy their golden years instead of dealing with “who gets what” and similar questions. The only way to ensure that it is a clear and painless process is to plan out your estate in advance of anything happening to you or your spouse.
If you need to speak with an estate planning attorney, contact Shepherd & Long today. Our Maryville, TN-based attorneys provide a full suite of family planning, estate planning, and probate services, among others, to help Blount County and nearby residents move forward with their lives feeling secure and confident. They work with clients of all ages who require estate planning assistance, which includes naming durable and healthcare powers of attorney, and creating living wills and trusts. Call our office, or submit our contact form to schedule a consultation today.