In this series finale, we tackle my favorite subject: Leaving a Legacy! Nobody likes the idea of creating an estate plan. It brings up uncomfortable feelings, forces you to start tense conversations about death and money, and, for solo retirees, the entire process may feel unnecessary. As stressful as estate planning can be, it’s critical that everyone has at least a basic estate plan in place.
Without an estate plan, your loved ones may have to endure a long and arduous process of organizing your estate, going through probate, and struggling to gain clarity around what you would have wanted them to do with your estate. What’s more, estate planning can help you to designate caretakers for your animals, outline steps for donating to charity, and more.
Let’s dig into how solo retirees can build a legacy that they’re proud of.
Estate Planning Basics
Let’s talk about a few basic steps you can take when planning your estate as a solo retiree.
Consider yourself first. First and foremost, you need to ensure two things are true:
- You have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement.
- You have a plan in place to physically protect and care for yourself as a solo retiree.
Without a spouse or partner, or without close family nearby, you need to have a plan to cover yourself both financially and physically. For example, working with a financial planner can help you to create a retirement cash flow plan that meets your unique needs. You may also decide to move into a monitored retirement center so that you have people available to help you if your health declines.
Get your legal plan in order. Your estate plan should include several key documents including your Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy or Power of Attorney, will, and trust (if necessary). Your Power of Attorney indicates who will be in charge of your finances and estate if you are unable to make decisions, have passed away, or are incapacitated.
Your Health Care Proxy/Power of Attorney is the same, but for your healthcare decisions. This person decides what level of care you receive, and whether or not you want to be resuscitated.
Your will outlines how you want your estate to be distributed after you pass away. Single people of any age often struggle with this concept. However, the truth is that even solo retirees need a will in place. In your will, you can donate money to charity, list beneficiaries (like siblings, friends, or other family members), outline how you want your animals to be cared for, and so much more.
Finally, a trust may be helpful for you if you plan to donate a large sum of money to charity or want your beneficiaries to have immediate access to funds rather than having to go through probate. As always, I recommend working with an estate planning attorney to iron out the details of your plan. Working with a professional helps to ensure that all of your t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted.
Make a glide path plan. If you don’t have any close family members who would want to keep a family home, or who you will be giving the bulk of your estate to, you might want to consider creating a glide path plan for yourself. This could look like selling your home and downsizing partway through retirement, moving into a retirement community center, or paring down your belongings early (you can even sell these to increase your cash flow!).
Making an Impact Through Your Estate Plan
If you are a solo retiree, you may or may not have close family members who you wish to list as beneficiaries in your estate plan. If you don’t, that’s okay! There are still many ways you can leverage your estate to make an impact. This might look like this:
- Setting up charitable donations.
- Using your estate to start a scholarship fund at your alma mater.
- Directing your estate to be used for a specific purpose or project within your community (think: a community garden, maintaining and landscaping a local park, etc.).
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! You can also dig into your values list to ensure that how you’re directing your estate aligns with what matters most to you. This can leave you with a sense of purpose and fulfillment even as you move through retirement.
Your Legacy Starts Now
It’s important to note that your legacy isn’t just about how much money you leave behind in your estate plan – far from it. You can start leaving your living legacy now. It can be helpful to reflect on your values list, and to ask yourself:
- Are there any life lessons I’ve learned that could help others?
- Are there people, organizations, or groups that I want to spend my time helping?
- How can I uplift others around me?
Leaving a living legacy can show up in your daily routine in innumerable ways. You could simply stop to ask people how their day is going more often, choose to be an active listener when someone needs an ear, volunteer at the local animal shelter or other community organization or non-profit you love, get involved in the summer children’s reading program at your local library, or any of the other countless activities available to you.
Solo retirees who focus on aging with grace and gratitude often find themselves to be happier, more fulfilled, and generally content in their day-to-day lives. This is true for everyone! I hope you feel empowered to leave a legacy both through your estate plan, but also in your daily actions. You get to define how others will carry your memory long after you’re gone, and that’s a beautiful responsibility to be tasked with.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on Solo Retirement! Thanks to all my solo retiree readers who encouraged me to put these thoughts into actionable content! However, I realize that reading a blog vs. putting things into action can be challenging! At Hixon Zuercher Capital Management, we focus on purpose beyond the numbers. As such, we offer retirement coaching that’s specifically tailored to all of these topics. Whether you’re a solo retiree, or are married or partnered and want to learn more about the non-financial aspects of retirement planning, we can help. Reach out to me directly to learn more.
Thanks for reading! Please share with your solo retiree friends!