Thinking Single: Women Who Live Long

old-peoples-home-63614_150I recently read a Huffington post article about the need for women to plan their estates as if they were single. And that got me thinking about how, despite our best efforts to plan, life just has a way of constantly changing.  Children grow up, we get old, and even families slip away, or change over time.

I work with families to craft estate plans all of the time, and it’s hard enough to get them to focus on the inevitability of death. Let alone the possibility that one of them is likely to survive the other, and live alone in old age. But from now on, I will try and do a better job to get that idea on the table, too.

Statistics tell us that it’s likely to be the woman who survives.  According to a U.S. Census report, 80% of women will survive their husbands.  And it’s pretty common knowledge that close to half of marriages ultimately fail.

So that leaves many women alone in old age, at a time when they’re going to need help managing their finances, making health care decisions, and, maybe, with managing the tasks of daily life. For them, it’s going to make sense to put together a team of people who can help. ( A dear friend of mine used to fantasize about buying an old motel, with a pool, where all of her friends could live together as they all got old. I still think this is a great idea.)

For a start, they’ll need to have friends or family members willing to serve as health care and financial agents, who can take care of decisions if they’re unable to do so. Long term care insurance might be a good thing to consider as well, since long-term care, especially at home, is not covered under most current health plans. Simplifying and organizing finances is also an excellent idea, as it’s easier for others to step in and manage things when accounts are in order and well-organized. And, if there are no obvious candidates for the team, pro-active research into institutions that can help (trust companies, banks, or private fiduciaries) is something to do before a crisis happens.