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Wealth Alone Cannot Protect Vulnerable Elders

Published June 14, 2018

Wealth alone is no guarantee that older individuals will enjoy a safe and happy retirement. While Americans enjoy well-planned senior years, some older individuals live alone with no one to care for them.

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 28 percent of people over age 65 live alone. This number is expected to increase in the coming years.

Consider the case of Peter Knoll, a 75-year-old Manhattan millionaire who died of hypothermia last winter because he failed to pay his gas bill. Surrounded by great wealth, but isolated, advancing age overtook Knoll. He died unable to take care of himself and unable or unwilling to seek assistance from others.

Or 95-year-old Stan Lee, the recently widowed creator of the Marvel Comics empire, who is allegedly spending his final years battling with family and business associates over control of his estate.

Financial security is important. Seniors should plan for personal security as well. This means putting in place a support network and arranging one’s financial and legal affairs while still healthy enough to be fully involved in the planning process.

Here are a few tips for ensuring personal security later in life:

  1. Choose location wisely. Deciding where to live in retirement is an important decision. Considerations should include not just the cost of living, but also the quality of life in the chosen location. Does the local community have support for seniors — such as social services for older persons, public transportation, and shopping and health care nearby? Are family members nearby?
  2. Manage legal and financial affairs. It is vital that seniors take the time to get their legal affairs in order — and do so early so that they are capable of being fully involved. This means having wills, health care directives, power of attorney documents drafted and kept in a safe place. Seniors should identify as early as possible those family members or friends that can be trusted to carry out instructions.
  3. Build a social network. Seniors living alone should build a network of friends and take time to become part of their local community. These support networks can improve older individuals’ quality of life and provide critical care in times of need. Studies have shown that strong social relationships boost longevity too.
  4. Purchase with friends. Consider group living. With creative financial planning and legal assistance, it is possible for seniors to purchase a home together and provide mutual support in their later years.
  5. Take action now. It is never too early to begin end-of-life planning. The elder law attorneys of Littman Krooks have decades of experience meeting the legal needs of seniors and their families. Whether it is protecting or stretching available assets, or planning for a safe and secure retirement, we can offer the right solutions for each client’s unique situation.

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