VanNess & VanNess, P.A.

Estate planning for single and independent seniors

More elderly people in Florida are easing into their golden years by themselves. According to recent figures published by the Census Bureau, 28 percent of all American adults are unmarried and live by themselves. Moreover, nearly 20 million of these single individuals are 65 and older. Senior citizens living by themselves is a big part of the demographics in the 21st century, which brings to mind the issue of estate planning strategies.

The loss of a loved one is among the various reasons that more seniors are living by themselves. Divorce, family separations and the complexities of modern life are also factors contributing to this trend. Whatever the causes may be, aging singles may face considerable challenges related to financial management, asset preservation, tax implications and deciding how their estates should be handled.

Estate planning for elderly singles should start with Chapter 765 of the Florida Statutes, which deals with the designation of a health proxy and the drafting of a living will. This designation must be practical and realistic. Unmarried senior citizens whose adult children do not reside in Florida and are not involved in their lives may be better off letting an estate planning law firm handle their affairs if they are not medically able to do so.

When it comes to managing their estates, elderly singles may wish to consider legal instruments that are more comprehensive than wills. If there is friction between adult children, an irrevocable trust can be established to benefit grandchildren when they reach certain milestones in their lives. For example, initial asset distribution may take place when a granddaughter graduates from high school, and a second disbursement can be set up for when she gets her college degree. In this case, the estate planning law firm can serve as trustee.

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