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3 major issues facing retirees with no immediate family

To start off this week's post, we'd like our Pennsylvania readers to consider for a moment a hypothetical man by the name of John. Like so many Americans, he is unmarried, childless and is over the age of 65. Even though he knows it's a good idea to get his estate plan in order before it's too late, he doesn't have any immediate family, only distance relatives who he hasn't seen in years. This is disconcerting to him because he's not sure how this will affect his estate plan and his end of life wishes.

Even though we made up John for the purpose of this post, his hypothetical situation is not that dissimilar from the ones facing some 17 million unmarried Americans across the country. Like John, these people also may not have immediate family to pass assets onto in a will or trust. Furthermore, they may not have anyone close to them that they trust to be their executor or power of attorney.

Although there is nothing wrong with living your life unmarried and childless, it can create some issues when it comes to drafting your estate plan. The first issue is how and to whom you will distribute your assets and property. Most people designate beneficiaries in their will instead of letting their estate go to intestate succession. But without immediate family, choosing beneficiaries can be difficult.

The second issue has to do with your health care directives. A lot of retirees have a very specific idea about how they want to be cared for when their health begins to fail. This can include everything from living arrangements to do-not-resuscitate orders. But if you have no immediate family, who do you assign as your health care proxy?

The third (but not necessarily the final) issue is assigning an executor for your will. As you know, an executor has the important job of following the requests you have made in your will and is in charge of distributing your assets according to your wishes. Most people choose someone that is close to them -- someone they can trust -- instead of letting the courts decide for them. But for unmarried retirees, the latter of these could become the only option.

It's these issues we hope our readers will consider, especially if they are in the same situation as our hypothetical retiree above.

Source: Reuters, “Estate planning for the young, rich and childless,” Beth Pinsker, June 2, 2014

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