E218 Bitcoin Letter of Instruction to Heirs

E218 Bitcoin Letter of Instruction to Heirs

Every bitcoin estate plan must include a simple, easy-to-understand letter of instruction to your heirs or executor. If you don’t, all of your hard-hoarded bitcoin may disappear.

Explain Bitcoin to a Child

Explain bitcoin to a child

Keep it super simple! Write the letter like you are explaining bitcoin to a child. Do not give the whole history of bitcoin, block chain, sound money, etc. Just write enough to get them past this treacherous stage: handling new and complex assets while grieving.

In your letter, write about:

  1. High-level concepts;
  2. Major pitfalls to avoid when working with cryptocurrency; and
  3. Immediate to-dos or checklist.

Bitcoin vs Banks

Most of your heirs understand banks and brokerage accounts. So, explain how bitcoin is different. Explain that cryptocurrency can be lost forever if handled wrong, unlike dealing with a bank. There is no password recovery.

Bitcoin vs banks

If your heir is a little more financially savvy, explain that bitcoin is like a bearer instrument. Bearer instruments are certificates where whoever holds them owns the money. (Cash is essentially a bearer instrument). When you give someone your bitcoin keys, that person has complete no-consequence access to your funds. No one will check their ID or verify their signature.

Where You Store Your Bitcoin

In your instruction letter, explain where you store your bitcoin keys. You should have a rough inventory of what you’re holding so your heirs know what to look for. Most bitcoiners have a little bit on an exchange (Coinbase, Binance, Gemini, etc.). You may also have some hot wallets online (apps, browser extensions, etc.). Lastly you may have cold wallets, which are not connected to the internet at all (hardware or paper certificate).

It is important that your instructions are in a letter, not in your will. Your holdings could change, and you won’t want to update your will for every change.

Where you store your bitcoin

Next, explain how the heirs can access the items on your inventory.

Exchanges are simple to explain, because they are more similar to banks than anything else. You heirs will send the death certificate and letters from the court and the exchange will turn over possession to the heirs.

Wallets are a little different. A good solution for a hardware wallet is to give a clone wallet to an executor or heir and give the PIN to someone else. Or you can split up a seed phrase and pass phrase among different heirs and they must collaborate to access your bitcoin.

Bitcoin letter of instruction example

If you’re reading this, I’m either dead or incapacitated. If I’m not dead or incapacitated, PLEASE STOP READING NOW.

This letter is about my Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, and how to access them. I won’t even try to explain everything about Bitcoin here, but I want you to know enough to not get robbed or lose everything.

Some important high-level concepts:

(1) Cryptocurrencies can be lost, forever! There’s no FDIC, or bank customer support to stop payment or reverse a bad transaction. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

(2) There’s no password reset or “recover lost password.” If you lose the passwords (known as seed phrases, I’ll explain below), Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are gone forever.

(3) Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are “bearer” assets, like cash. Whoever holds it, owns it. So if you hand someone the seed phrases, it’s like handing them an untraceable bag of cash.

Nervous enough? No worries, Just follow these instructions, and you should be fine.

On Exchanges

I hold some Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on the following exchanges:

– Binance.com/Coinbase.com/Gemini.com

This is the easy part: just ask my executor or probate lawyer to contact the exchange with an original death certificate and letters testamentary, and they’ll give further instructions on how to transfer my Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Now it gets harder.

On Hardware Wallets

I also hold some Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies on hardware wallets. What’s a hardware wallet? It looks like a large USB thumb drive, and my passwords/seed phrases are securely stored inside the device. You need my PIN code to access my hardware wallet.

My hardware wallet (and duplicate copies) are located:

– Describe locations

You should automatically receive an email with the PIN within six months of my death (I set up a “Dead Man’s Switch”). Just remember: anyone who has both my hardware wallet and PIN has full, irreversible access to the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies inside.

Seed Phrase

If you cannot find or access any of the hardware wallets, you can still recover my Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies using my “seed phrase.” This string of 24 ordered words is the secret password to control the funds, even without the hardware wallet device.

I’ve given the first 12 words to these trusted people: Bart, Lisa, and Maggie

And the second 12 words to: Moe, Larry, and Curly

Contact whoever you need to complete the 24 word seed phrase. And remember: whoever has the full 24 word phrase has full, irreversible access to the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies inside.That’s it.You probably won’t be able to navigate all this without some help.But at least you now know how to find and protect the hardware device and seed phrases while you figure out the rest.

Also, consider choosing an executor who understands bitcoin and cryptocurrency custody. You can learn more about hiring a professional executor in my book, “How to Choose Your Executor

E216 Bitcoin's Unclaimed Property Problem

E216 Bitcoin’s Unclaimed Property Problem


Bitcoin is getting more mainstream every day. But new bitcoiners need to be aware of the unclaimed funds problem. Hopefully we can contribute to a solution.

How do Unclaimed Funds Work, Generally?

The first level of prevention of loss is password recovery. This is not part of unclaimed funds, but for banks and other custodians.
If your bank account is dormant (meaning no activity for a long time), then the bank must make attempts to contact you. If there’s no contact after several attempts, then the bank sends your money to the State to hold in the unclaimed funds department. You and your heirs can recover from the State any time.
This is how banks protect their members from catastrophic loss of assets.

Why Bitcoin Is Different

Why bitcoin is different
When you own your bitcoin, you own your own keys (self-custody). If you keep your bitcoin on an exchange, there are some similarities to a regular bank account. Meaning, you have a way to recover your password and there is a similar unclaimed funds procedure as discussed above.
If you are a real bitcoin enthusiast, you probably own your bitcoin. In this case, there is no one you can call to recover your password. You are responsible for it, and there are some measures you need to take to make it work.
If your bitcoin wallet is dormant for years, no one will attempt to contact you. It just stays in zombie mode. Bitcoin is a public ledger, meaning we can all see how much is in a given wallet, we just don’t know whose wallet it is. There are wallets sitting with huge amounts and there is no one to check on them.
If you lose your keys (or fail to deliver them to your heirs), they are gone “forever”. In other words, your wallet becomes stuck with no way to get into it.

How to Prevent Lost Bitcoins

Since bitcoin is not governed by the unclaimed loss protocols, there is not a safety net.
How to prevent lost bitcoins
If you think someone knows how to manage your crypto after your death, it won’t happen without leaving instructions.
How do you recover your password? Don’t share your keys. You can split up your seed phrase or add a passphrase. You can give a copy of the hardware wallet to one person and the PIN to another person.
Another option is a decentralized dead man’s switch. A dead man’s switch is a button that needs to be pressed in order to prevent something from happening. The act of pressing the button is proof that you are alive. If you fail to press the button as scheduled, then the process starts for your funds to transfer to your beneficiary. For example, the PINs, phrases, or locations of those keys will be sent to people who will combine the information to access your account.
It’s important to remember that it is not safe to store seed phrases anywhere online (even split up).
A centralized dead man’s switch with a company could go away at any given time. A decentralized dead man’s switch would be some sort of open-source project that does not rely on one server or one company. A solution that preserves the ability to control your assets is decentralized and secure. For now, split hardware/pin or seed/passphrase are the best solutions we have.
What are some better solutions? I would love to hear from you.
What will bitcoin look like in the future? Will we have bitcoin “banks” to protect your money and provide quick easy access? How will they remain decentralized and let you keep your sovereignty over your money?

It is encouraging to see so many solo agers using cryptocurrency – even more so than their younger cohorts. If you would like a free copy of my book, “The Solo Ager Estate Plan”, click on the link below.

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E214 Transferring Bitcoin Upon Death


Let’s review a real-world case study of a client’s plan to transfer his bitcoin upon his death. This looks like an elegant solution, so let us know if you see any major red flags!

Cloned wallets and sharded seeds

The client’s plan focused on clone wallets and sharded seeds.

The plan starts with two clone hardware wallets. A hardware wallet is like a minicomputer that plugs into your USB drive, but it is not fully connected to the internet or the computer. It keeps your private keys/secret codes offline while allowing you to interact in online transactions. When you clone your hardware wallet, you make duplicates of it. Each clone wallet is password protected.

Cloned wallets and sharded seeds

The client gives one clone wallet to his executor. He gives the other clone wallet to his sister (who is an heir). Neither the executor nor the sister has the PIN to the wallet. They just have the device. They will receive the PIN upon the client’s death either by dead man’s switch or from another heir.

Then the client shards his seed phrase. Remember the seed phrase is 12 or 24 secret words that you can use to recover your cryptocurrency if something happens to your hardware wallet.

The client has divided his 12 words into two chunks of 6. The client gives half of those seed words to his executor. The executor won’t receive the second half of the words until the client dies.

Upon death, the executor will receive the PIN code to his clone wallet and then he has access to the cryptocurrency. The back-up plan is that the sister receives her PIN code from another heir or dead man’s switch. Then she has access to the cryptocurrency. In the event of hardware failure, the executor will receive the second half of the seed words to recover the hardware wallet.

Risk of theft vs catastrophic loss

Risk of theft vs catastrophic loss

Plans need to balance risk of theft vs. risk of catastrophic loss. You are twice as likely to lose your cryptocurrency than to have a hacker steal it from you. It is more complicated than memorizing a PIN code. You don’t have the safeguard of calling a bank to reset your PIN. It is also easy to over-complicate things and make it too difficult for your heirs. There might be security holes in your plan, but are they big enough to merit increasing risk of catastrophic loss?

Redundancy, and balancing risks

Using multiple hardware wallets is tangible and understandable. A hardware wallet is a device, and it needs a code to access the cryptocurrency. If hardware wallets fail, then you can always shard the seed phrase.

Redundancy, and balancing risks

By using cloned wallets, there is a slight increase for the risk of theft. In this case, the client accepted the increased risk of theft to decrease the chance of his cryptocurrency disappearing upon his death.

While this plan isn’t perfect, I like it. Please pick it apart – I want to hear your feedback. We might not be hard-core “bitcoin-ers,” but we do know what happens when people die! Being an executor is not easy. If you add cryptocurrency to the executor’s job, it’s definitely harder. It will be interesting to learn more as people die holding cryptocurrency.

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E213 What if Witnesses to Will Cannot be Found?


We’ve talked about mistakes when choosing the witnesses to your will (5 Mistakes With DIY Wills and Witnesses), but what actually happens if you can’t track down a witness during the probate process?

Witnesses to a will cannot be found

Witnesses to will cannot be found

What does it mean when the witness cannot be found? First, it could be that the witness has passed away. Second, it could mean that they left the state or the country. In todays’ age of technology, it is not that big of a deal if someone moves, but it can still lead to complications in the probate process.

Lastly, sometimes the witness simply won’t cooperate. Sometimes the witness is someone doing a good deed at the time of witnessing but doesn’t want further contact after the person is deceased. For example, maybe the attorney asked a random hospital worker to witness a patient’s will.

What to do when witnesses to will cannot be found

What does a probate attorney do when a witness to a will cannot be found? It starts with internet searches, but if no results turn up then the attorney can hire a private investigator. Private investigators have access to tools and databases that a regular person does not. They can find the witness or proof of the witness’s death. Then the attorney can prove that he or she was diligent in finding contact information or proof of death.

What to do when witnesses to will cannot be found

If an attorney was present to supervise the will signing, then ask that attorney to act as a second witness. It’s like having a backup witness in place.

Once you have the witness information, the attorney needs to check if the court will accept only one witness. Unfortunately, even after all the diligent and time-consuming work, the court may still decide that one witness is not enough.

How to avoid missing witnesses

You should always make a self-proving will. This means that the will has a separate affidavit that the witnesses sign saying that they witnessed the will. It’s an extra layer of confirmation, but it is not iron-clad. If the will is contested, then the witnesses can still be called into court.

How to avoid missing witnesses

It is a good idea to have professional witnesses to your will. This does not mean “professionals” such as nurses, doormen, bank tellers, etc. Professional witnesses could be paralegals or other attorneys who do this regularly. First of all, they know what to look for and know how to testify later as a witness to a will. Also, they are generally more available and easier to track down.

Even if your state requires two witnesses for a will, you can have more. That way, if one died away or is hard to find, then you can at least still have the required two. It’s like having a back-up to the back-up.

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E211 Use a Personal Property Memorandum to Bequeath your Stuff


Many people make this mistake with personal property when creating their estate plan: They include a long laundry list of the tiniest items in their official, legal will.

We’ll discuss why this can be a problem, and what you should do instead.

Leaving personal property in a will

Leaving personal property in a will

It is very common to leave personal property in a will. However, it can cause problems during the probate process.

Personal property lists change frequently. The items on the list may change, or you may change who you want to receive the items. You won’t want to pay money to update your will every time there is a change on the list.

Unlike a bank account, it’s hard to put a value on your personal property. Some personal property items that might make sense to put in the will are large or expensive items. Examples of these are a classic car, expensive jewelry and art, and collectibles. To determine whether the item has significant value, ask yourself: would this item be worth sending to an appraiser?

Personal property you should never put in your will

To re-cap, items that are fine to put in your will are ones with big value, worth paying for an appraisal, and things that you will likely still own when you die.

People love to put furniture in their wills, but this isn’t usually a good idea. Furniture is often in poor condition, heavy, and costly to move. It also puts pressure on the beneficiaries who may not have wanted the furniture, as most people already have complete furnished houses.

Personal property you should never put in your will

What about jewelry that is more expensive than costume jewelry, but less expensive than “estate” jewelry? It’s worth something, but not worth appraising. In this case, it’s best not to mention it in the will.

Lastly, do not put clothing in your will! Unless it is a costly mink coat, it’s not worth the headache to have your will revised every time you get rid of or buy clothing. Again, like furniture, your clothes may not be desired by your heirs.

It’s not that these items are not important, but there is a better way to leave much of your personal property to your loved ones.

Use a personal property memorandum, instead

Use a personal property memorandum, instead

A personal property memorandum is a separate document that is not part of your will. Revising your will is expensive but updating a personal property memorandum is not. The personal property memorandum is very easy to update. It could be as simple as a Word document that you update as you wish, then send the most recent copy to your attorney to keep on file. Unlike a will, the personal property memorandum is not legally binding, and that’s ok! You should choose an executor who you trust to carry out your wishes.

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E208 Article 81 Guardian vs Revocable Trust for Solo Ager

E208 Article 81 Guardian vs Revocable Trust for Solo Agers


Recently, our solo ager client, Julie, moved into a long-term rehabilitation facility. Thankfully, her health is stable, but her bills are starting to fall behind.

No plan: What is Article 81 Guardianship?

An Article 81 guardian is someone that takes over your financial affairs when you have no prior plan. By walking you through this situation, we will show you what can happen if you fail to plan.

Unfortunately, Julie only had half a plan. She has a Last Will and in it, I’m named as her executor because she has no relatives nearby. But this is only half of a plan because a will only takes effect when Julie dies. Until then, I have no legal authority.

No plan- What is article 81 guardianship?

To help Julie manage her finances and pay her bills, I have to ask the court to name me as her Article 81 guardian. Any time you have to go to court, there are usually delays, costs, and uncertainty. While we are waiting at the mercy of the court process, Julie’s co-op payments are falling behind.

Better Plan: Guardianship vs Revocable Trust

What would have been a better, complete plan for Julie? In this case, with a revocable trust, I could step in and help Julie without the long court process. Besides avoiding probate, another benefit of a revocable trust is the end-of-life help with finances. For the same reasons you’d  avoid probate, you’d want your end-of-life team to be able to help you without going to court.

Better plan- guardianship vs revocable trust

If you worry that it’s too expensive to hire a lawyer for a trust, note that the cost of an Article 81 guardianship is between $5,000 to $10,000. A revocable trust costs about $2,000. I don’t recommend revocable trusts for everyone, but it is often a wise option for solo agers.

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E204 How to Make Sure You Don’t Leave Anything to ...

E204 How to Make Sure You Don’t Leave Anything to …


Many of our Solo Ager clients want to make sure they don’t leave anything to a relative who is distant, estranged, or they just dislike. Here are a couple of common misconceptions – and the best solution.

Can’t I just omit them from the Will?

Can’t I just omit them from the will?

The assumption is, “If I omit them from my Will, they have zero involvement, right?”

Unfortunately, that is not how the process works. They will still receive notice from the court regarding the Will. When you probate a will in court, you’re required to notify all the family members who would have inherited under the default inheritance law (what the inheritance plan would have been if there was no Will).

For example, you are unmarried with no children, and you have several nieces and nephews who are not involved in your life. Those nieces and nephews are the ones who would inherit if you didn’t have a Will, and they will receive a court notice even if you omit them from your Will.

That court notice is basically an invitation to come to court and contest the Will. Those nieces and nephews may not have legitimate grounds to contest, but may drain the estate’s funds fighting the legal battle, stress out your intended heirs, etc.

Can’t I specifically disinherit them in my Will?

Can’t I specifically disinherit them in my will?

Yes, this is called an “In terrorem” clause, but there are two problems with this approach:

  1. You’re still notifying them and inviting them to contest your Will; and
  2. In terrorem works best with an “incentive,” which you probably don’t want to give.

For example, an In terrorem clause could state that if a nephew contests the Will, then he might not receive anything. The problem here is that you didn’t want him to receive anything anyway. Now, he has no disincentive to contest the Will.

The In terrorem clause works best by giving the nephew something as a disincentive for him to challenge the Will: “I leave $10,000 to my nephew, but if he contests the Will, he will not be entitled to receive the $10,000.” In this example, you have given your nephew a disincentive to challenge, but you’ve also given him money as advanced blackmail that you would not have given to him in the first place.

Solution: A Trust

Solution- a Trust

In the situation where you want to make sure a specific person does not get anything and cannot challenge your wishes – a Trust works best.

A Trust is a mechanism used to deliver assets to your heirs without the probate court process. If you don’t have the probate court process, then no notice is sent to heirs who are not named in the Trust. Even if an unnamed relative finds out about the Trust, there is no easy mechanism to contest your wishes. Unlike the In terrorem clause in the Will, there is no need to give an “incentive” in the Trust.

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E201 Should I Name a Trust as Beneficiary of My Accounts

E201 Should I Name a Trust as Beneficiary of My Accounts?


Another question that we receive often is “should I name a trust as beneficiary of my estate?” In a recent case, Rhonda reached out to us, because she wanted the benefits of a trust (avoid probate, reduce chance of a “will contest,” etc.), but she was not quite ready for the headache of a full-blown trust setup. In her particular situation, naming her trust as beneficiary makes sense. If you are considering this doing this, here are a few things you should consider.

How to Name Trust as Beneficiary

How to Name Trust as Beneficiary

A full-blown trust has to be set up and funded. It can be a nominal amount, even as little as $10. It has to own things and you will need to convert your banking accounts, houses, and related items from your individual name to the trust name. It may be quite a bit of work in some situations. For example. if you live in a co-op, this can be a lot of work to change your deed. You will likely need board approval, and this will take time and work. If changing your banking, you will need to go to the bank and open new accounts in the trust name. You’ll then need to change any direct deposits and withdraws once the new account is open.

In Rhonda’s case, instead of changing all of her accounts now, she is leaving them in her name and changing the beneficiary of the accounts to a trust. For example, when you have life insurance, you can name a person or multiple people as beneficiaries. However, instead of naming a person, you can name your trust to be the recipient.

In her situation, her trust will be unfunded until she passes. Upon her passing, the trust will be funded using the beneficiary designations.

To name a trust as a beneficiary, there are three basic steps. You must create the trust document, you then fund the trust (even a nominal $10), and finally, you name a beneficiary. Usually, you can obtain change of beneficiary forms for your accounts to change the names. The result: you have a hollow, but ready, trust on standby, which is ready to accept funds as beneficiary upon your passing.

Pros of Your Trust as Beneficiary

Pros of Your Trust as Beneficiary

One of the pros for taking this route is that, in theory, you get to avoid the costs and headache of probate. Probate is generally not easy and takes a long time. If there is a beneficiary on an account, then the account does not need to go through probate to be liquidated. You simply need a death certificate and a copy of the trust to withdraw the funds. Having a trust also reduces the chance of a will contest. If there is a wayward heir, they can contest the will if it is probated. If you do not probate, it’s much harder. You essentially create a challenge barrier with a trust.

There is also a phycological connection. Changing all of your accounts out of your name and into a trust name may feel as if it’s not yours. If that is an issue for you, then this option may be a good way around that feeling.

Cons of Your Trust as Beneficiary

This way of doing a trust does not protect you from court-appointed strangers (known as guardians) controlling your funds during your life. If everything is still in your name and you become incapacitated or someone can assert that you are in cognitive decline, then a guardian can be appointed to control your funds. However, if everything is owned by the trust, then a court-appointed guardian can not access those items. Only the trustee of the trust, as chosen by you, can control what happens. Not only does a full trust prevent a court-appointed stranger from controlling your assets, but they most likely won’t bother with you, because there are no funds for them to control.

Cons of Your Trust as Beneficiary

In general, Anthony is not really a fan of naming a trust as a beneficiary, because in his experience, people generally do not do a good job tracking their beneficiary designations. We see very often where people forget to change their beneficiaries after relationship ends and people die. It is very easy to forget, even if you are really well organized. The designations are not conspicuous and are not usually listed on the statements, so people do forget. Bottom line – people do not remember.

Another reason that Anthony doesn’t suggest this route is that honestly, doing it this way does not really save as much time as you would think. It is actually very similar to what you will need to do with your assets when you create a full-blown trust. In either scenario, you will have to submit forms and provide documentation, which is almost the same process in both situations.

Naming a trust as your beneficiary is a good steppingstone as first step to a fully funded trust. We suggest you talk out your wishes and situation with an experienced estate planner to determine the best route for you.

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E199 Solo Agers: Make These 7 New Year Resolutions for 2021


Happy New Year! Solo Ager experts Joy Loverde, Sara Geber, and Carol Marak were kind enough to share their thoughts with us on what Solo Agers should map out in the new year. Here are your seven new year resolutions from your favorite Solo Ager experts:

Joy Loverde, is the author of two books, The Complete Eldercare Planner and Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old. She is an expert in this area of solo agers and we are grateful that she shared her insight with our followers on our podcast Episode 192: How to Plan for Old Age and Being Childless with Joy Loverde podcast. She offers the following New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Learn More About Shared Housing

Learn More About Shared Housing

Shared housing can be summarized in two words: “Golden Girls.” Instead of going into a facility, this is a situation where people share housing. This can be a more intimate, cozy environment, compared to a institution setting. Last year reminded us how important social interaction is, and a lot of people have learned that they want to be in the company of others. She believes that shared housing will increase in popularity and will take off this year, as a result of 2020. This may or may not work for everyone, but it is certainly something for a Solo Ager look into. Joy recommends researching and exploring this option to see if it is something to consider.

2. Be More Aware of the Full Responsibility of Pet Ownership

Be More Aware of the Full Responsibility of Pet Ownership

Another result of 2020 is increased pet ownership. Many people sought companionship from pets when isolated from the real world. Solo Agers need to know the extent of what it takes to care for a furry family member. If they haven’t done so already, now is a good time to research the financial and physical aspects of pet ownership. In particular, what will happen to your pet if you are unable to care for them? Joy recommends exploring a pet trust. While Anthony isn’t a fan of pet trusts, he explains that they are a vehicle to care for the pet financially. Instead of giving funds outright to a person to care for a pet, it’s put into a trust. Anthony suggests that instead of a pet trust, you find someone that will care for your pet properly if given an outright lump sum.

Sara Geber, PhD. is the author of Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers. She is also a retirement transition coach and a professional speaker on retirement and aging. Sara shared essential retirement planning tips with Anthony recently on his podcast. You can listen to them here (part 1) and here (part 2). Sara She suggests these New Year’s Resolutions for Solo Agers:

3. Review and update your planning documents

3. Review and update your planning documents

Sara suggests that Solo Agers take the time to review their estate planning documents. In particular, she suggests reviewing your Power of Attorney and Advance Directive, especially if you have not done so in five or more years. While this isn’t the easiest and most uplifting resolution, it is very important. Anthony suggests that you review these documents every 4 years, which coordinates with the Olympics. To him, it is an easier way to remember. This is like going to the dentist – you may not love it, but you have to do it.

4. Have “the conversation” with your family and/or other loved ones

 

Again, while not a fun topic of conversation, it’s important. You don’t have to make a whole to-do about telling them, but it’s a good time to start talking, even if it’s informally. If you don’t share your end of life wishes and emergency contacts, then no one might know. It doesn’t necessarily have to be family. It may be your Super or Doorman that may learn of your passing before others. They see you daily and may know if something is wrong. You will want them to know who to call.

Have “the conversation” with your family and/or other loved ones

While not easy to talk about, if you share your burial and inheritance wishes beforehand, it may make it easier on those who will help with your funeral planning and finances.

Carol Marak is a solo aging advisor and advocate. She is the founder of the Elder Orphan Facebook Group, which launched in 2016 has almost 10,000 members. She also has a very successful YouTube channel called Solo and Smart and her book Solo and Smart, is slated for publication in 2021. We were thrilled to have spoken with her in podcast Episode 194: Tips from Founder of The Elder Orphans Support Group.

5. Shift uncertainty to predictable outcomes

Carol says that you should work to shift uncertainty into predictable outcomes. Generally, uncertainty can be stressful, so she suggests you fix it. If you’re feeling stressed about your health – fix it. Talk to your primary care physician about things you can do to change your daily habits and feel better.

Shift uncertainty to predictable outcomes

She suggests that you build a team of support. Not knowing who will help you when you need it can be stressful. A family can be built with friends and Carol calls these your “family of choice.” It does not necessarily need to be relatives. Find your team – your friends, your doorman, etc.

6. Never buy into the idea that you are powerless

Never buy into the idea that you are powerless

Carol suggests that you list two goals you want to accomplish. They do not have to be big goals. Simply pick two things that you have thought about doing and do them. She suggests that to do this, you should find the people who can help you learn the skills or strategies to achieve them.

Anthony, a Solo Ager expert as well shares his resolutions for Solo Agers:

7. Read more books, less “news”

Anthony recommends that you read more books and watch less news. Books help to educate and sharpen your mind. Authors of books typically spend substantially more time researching and writing the book then say a blog post or news article that was written on the whim. He feels that books immerse you, contrary to news articles which tend to enflame you.

Reading keeps you sharp and talking about books makes you a better conversationalist than talking about news. Set a goal to read one or two books a year. Anthony suggests that you never put pressure on yourself to finish a book. If you start it and don’t like it, put it down. You can go back to it or you can simply never pick it up again. If you go into a book with that pressure, it’s much harder to get started reading. Knowing you can stop when you want gives you some mental freedom to try more and more books.

Read more books, less “news”

Let’s face it – book clubs sound more fun and social than news clubs! Another bonus – you don’t have to purchase books. You can borrow them from a library or even your friends.

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E197 How to Disinherit a Child


In this case, “Robin,” a solo ager, is looking to update her estate plan. She is divorced and has two biological daughters. One is living abroad and one not on good terms with her mother. One lives too far away to be a part of the estate plan and the other has been neglectful and the relationship is strained. For these reasons, she does not want to give her inheritance either daughter.

How to Disinherit Someone in a Will

How to Disinherit Someone in a Will

In theory, you can simply just omit them. However, some people prefer to have a simple explanation as to why a particular person will not inherit, such as “I have already given generously over their lifetime” or “my daughter has not treated me well so I am choosing to leave her out.” You don’t need to over justify, but you are simply explaining to those reading your will after you passed why you left someone out.

What is an In Terrorem Clause?

During probate, anyone who would have received an inheritance in the absence of a will has a right to object by default. In Robin’s case, in the absence of a will, her estate would be divided equally between her two biological daughters, leaving them both with the right to object. This could lead to litigation and lots of problems.

What is an In Terrorem Clause

An In Terrorem clause is designed so that if a rightful heir objects to the will, then they receive nothing. However, in this particular case, the daughters already get nothing. So, is there really anything to lose by objecting? Honestly, not really.

This clause is typically stronger if, instead of omitting a person, the person you would like to leave out instead receives less of a percentage of the estate. In Robin’s case, let’s say that she decides to leave 75% of her estate to her overseas daughter and 25% to her estranged daughter. This way, if the estranged daughter objects, she gets nothing. The risk of loss is greater than if she was simply omitted in the first place.

If you plan to go this route, there is an argument that you need to leave them an amount large enough to dissuade from objecting. It can be small, but not too small ($10 for example, isn’t enough to dissuade them). Depending on the size of the estate, this amount could be $1,000, $10,000, or even $100,000.

However, in Robin’s situation, she doesn’t want to leave anything to the estranged daughter and leaving her $10,000 is contrary to what she wants. It’s not going to feel great to leave her money as a type of advanced extortion.

Setting up a Trust for Grandchildren

In Robin’s case, we came up with an elegant solution to disinheriting a child, which is to set up a trust for her grandchildren. Robin’s goal isn’t to disinherit the family, she just isn’t happy with the daughter. Therefore, she is going to skip her daughters and give to her grandchildren. Not only does it keep her estate in the family, but it will also create less conflict within the family.

Setting up a Trust for Grandchildren

Additionally, the daughters are less likely to object, since the estate will go to their kids. Robin is happy with this solution, as it will keep the peace and keep the money in the family.

Another bonus is that trusts come with huge benefits: trusts protect the assets. For example, if the grandchildren get married and divorced, the trust is protected. A trust is essentially a gift in addition to the monetary gift.

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