There are plenty of resources available to childless couples and individuals as they enter their golden years. You just need to plan ahead. Here are a few things you can do to set yourself up for a hopeful and prosperous future.
The Wall Street Journal advises couples without children to tackle two main tasks: establish plans for your property and assign Power Of Attorney. For the first item on the docket, you’ll need to outline inheritance for your major assets. The most common approach is a “sweetheart” Will, where you both leave everything to each other and lay out instructions for your property after you’ve both passed. You can also transfer your assets into a joint revocable living Trust, which includes plans for the property and allows either of you to alter it, or set up separate Trusts.
Singles can set up a Trust as well and simply assign a bank or company as the trustee, tasked with paying bills and managing your home in case of an emergency.
Power Of Attorney could go to a spouse or sibling, but you should also appoint a younger person (niece, nephew, friend) you trust to serve at the same time or in succession. The important thing is that you establish all of this as soon as possible. The New York Times shared the example of Batya Lewton, an 82-year-old New Yorker with no children or spouse who gave two friends in her apartment building Power Of Attorney and even made them executors of her Will. She also filed important papers in clearly marked boxes for them and went over her explicit burial wishes with them. (She’s basically our planning hero now.)
Kiplinger’s recommends assembling a dream team of pros to help manage your affairs. This group should include a certified public accountant, a financial planner, and an estate-planning lawyer or elder law attorney. You may also want to add a geriatric care manager to the mix if you plan on living at home as long as possible. They can periodically check in to assess your health and, if they believe independent living is too dangerous, can also help you get home aides or select a new living facility.
This brings us to the last big puzzle piece: Living arrangements. Many childless seniors dream of moving into a community with friends. It worked for The Golden Girls. This is a fine idea, so long as you’re looking at the right places. Kiplinger’s suggests seniors should prize a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) over a “village.”
These so-called villages provide transportation to hospitals, meal delivery, and home repairs to all the elderly in the neighborhood in exchange for a membership fee. They’re comfortable, though not ideal for later-stage healthcare.
A CCRC provides an independent living unit, housekeeping, meals, and recreational activities for an entrance fee as well as a monthly charge. But -- and this is crucial -- they can also transfer you to an on-site assisted living facility or nursing home if it becomes necessary. While this tiered approach is one of the safest options, CCRCs can be costly. Consult this AARP guide for more information.
If you insist on staying in your home, there are a few things you can do. First, are you willing to hire a geriatric care manager? Good. Next you should invest in some life alert technology, which will message chosen proxies if you fall or are behaving atypically. (Here are some options courtesy of Kiplinger’s).
All this planning may seem like a major time and money investment, but the peace of mind is more than worth it. And besides, if you’ve been childless your whole life there could be one benefit: Money. You’ve (hopefully) banked all that extra cash you would’ve spent on college funds and other expenses. Now’s the time to use it.