As a Solo Ager, choosing who inherits from you is something you should think about. Should it be the person who was there the most at the end? Or someone who had more of a life-long relationship with the decedent?
Which relative should inherit?
You can be a Solo Ager and still have siblings, nieces, and nephews, etc. Should the person who inherits your estate be that lifelong “favorite” niece or nephew that you went to ball games with or sewed with?
Alternatively, there may have been a distant relative who was there for you at the end when things got tough. Perhaps it was someone who helped you with personal medical and hygiene needs. That kind of care creates an instant close relationship.
We deal with estates after someone has passed on, and we hear both sides of the story. There may be the niece who says she was close with her aunt for 40 years and then all of a sudden everything goes to Cousin Johnny. The other point of view is that Cousin Johnny, who never had a close relationship with the aunt, was the one who stepped up to care for her in the end. There is no right answer, but this is an example of both points of view.
Can a caregiver inherit?
In a similar scenario, rather than talking about Cousin Johnny, a hired home-aide or nurse was caring for the decedent in the end. Often, the “hired help” do get something from the decedent’s estate. We’ve seen butlers, live-in maids, and live-in cooks either inherit or not inherit. The family often underestimates how close the decedent was with their cook or maid. On the other hand, sometimes the home-aide overestimates his or her place and expects a large inheritance that will never come.
A word of caution for home-aides and cousins helping at the end: The courts may look into whether a beneficiary exerted undue influence on the Solo Ager when making the will. For example, when someone is so reliant on another person for daily care, they have reason to fear that the care may be withheld if they don’t sign a will naming the home-aide as a beneficiary. If the court finds that this is the case, the will might be deemed invalid.
Leaving money to a church in your will
In this context, we’ll use the word “church” to describe any religious or community organization. For many Solo Agers, the church provides a lot of comfort and community toward the end of life. When the Solo Ager lives far away from (or has outlived) their family, the church sort of becomes their family. The church may also be the one that you rely on to give you a proper burial and memorial service.
For these reasons, the church is often a main beneficiary. This may be confusing for relatives far away because they think they should get the money. But in reality, the church was the one meeting the needs of the Solo Ager at the end.
These scenarios should get you thinking about having a solid estate plan. For Solo Agers, it’s wise to get at least one version done now while you are unquestionably of sound mind. That way, there is a paper trail showing your minor changes along the way.
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