Many of the cues that get people thinking about estate planning are family related. New marriages, becoming a grandparent, passing along a family business or protecting family heirlooms can all be the impetus for starting an estate plan. A new trend may require a change in the way people consider legacy planning. A growing percentage of Americans between the ages of 45 and 65, prime years to complete an estate plan, are living alone.
Reasons to plan ahead
Living alone does not change the need for an estate plan. Contrary to popular belief, estate planning is not death planning. The benefits of having a carefully crafted plan are for the plan holders, not for those left behind. Of course, the people considered in a will or trust can benefit, but the point is for the person making the plan to retain control of their lives, and assets, in the manner they see fit.
Family distance or absence
Our society is more mobile than ever. One of the effects of this is that people may find themselves isolated even in the places they put down roots. Children are more likely to move away, leaving parents alone as they age. Divorce among people 55-64 has grown rapidly, so many older people are single and without close, day-to-day ties with family members. Whether solitude is by choice or by circumstance, the fact is that people living alone may be less inclined to see to their estate plans in a timely manner.
Some studies suggest that the number of Americans with no living family is about to rise sharply. While this group stands to gain as much as any from proper estate planning, it may lack the traditional encouragement to get started. Estate planning is for everyone.
Source: Bloomberg, “Americans Face a Rising Risk of Dying Alone,” by Ben Steverman, 9 October 2017