Estate Planning
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Special Considerations in Estate Planning for Singles Over 50


Maryland estate planning is a necessity for those who are single and over 50. This group includes lifelong singles, divorced persons, and surviving spouses. There will be different considerations depending on one’s situation. Older singles with no estate plan are encouraged to forestall potential problems by preparing one through an experienced estate planning attorney.

Basic math dictates that singles often have a tougher financial path than married couples. Payments, such as mortgages or rent, may be near or equal to that of a couple, but a single person has just one paycheck. This fact applies throughout a range of financial activities. Most singles over 50 must, therefore, be fully informed about their assets and must be able to select financial strategies going forward.

Some Women Over 50 Face Particular Challenges

Getting a handle on one’s financial picture may be challenging for some women over 50. They may face particularly difficult adjustments after the death of a husband or in the aftermath of a divorce. With women outliving men by several years on average, and due to the well-documented increase in “gray” divorces, large numbers of women over 50 find themselves alone and needing estate planning and financial counseling.

The problem is that many women abdicate financial tasks to their husbands during the marriage, studies say. Some women are more inclined to have their husbands handle these tasks. While that may be a useful arrangement while it lasts, it causes some harsh difficulties after the husband dies or a divorce occurs.

Financially unprepared women are left with numerous tasks, possibly including administering retirement plans, maximizing investments, and adopting a plan for financial downsizing. She may also have inherited the family business to run or to liquidate. Also, if there was a second marriage, it is common to see a natural tension between stepchildren and the woman notwithstanding no problems during the marriage. Litigation can sometimes follow, especially where the husband was incompetent prior to death, thereby planting the inevitable suspicion of undue influence.

One common problem involves the marital residence. The children may now be grown and the expenses – home maintenance, property taxes, and insurance — may justify selling and investing in retirement vessels. Because a financially inexperienced woman will be ill-prepared to make such potentially crucial determinations, she may need to first consult with qualified professionals.

Social Security and Medicaid Planning

Planning for future Social Security benefits is also a concern for many. If the marriage lasted at least 10 years, one who is at least 62 can choose to collect benefits calculated on the other spouse’s higher earnings, resulting in a substantial benefit increase. The benefit will revert to the lower amount if the lower-earning spouse remarries.

Singles over 50 are also concerned about an incapacitating disability. Medicare does not cover long-term care costs. One option is to purchase long-term care insurance. The premiums are historically high, but recent hybrid policies offer a greater economic benefit. Where insurance is not desired, there may be a need for Medicaid planning, which intends to qualify the person for Medicaid. This planning can occur after retirement, but younger persons may benefit by starting gradually. The attorney will guide the client through the process of becoming Medicaid-approved.

Get Your Estate Planning Goals Fulfilled

It may be an opportune time to update existing estate plans or to get a new one started. If you do this, a first concern will be who to appoint as representatives for estate, trust, and health proxy purposes. With no spouse or children, these choices are often difficult but easily resolved in confidential discussions with the estate planning attorney. Maryland singles over 50 with no children or immediate family need some basic protections. Without a will, their assets may be forfeited to the state. In the will, one chooses relatives, close friends and/or favored charities as beneficiaries. The best first step is to call an estate planning attorney for an initial comprehensive consultation to review options and strategies for maximum protection.

Information in this article is provided for educational purposes only and not intended to constitute legal advice. Please consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction for help with your specific situation.


Schedule a consultation with Maryland attorney Elsa W. Smith from the

Law Offices of Elsa W. Smith, LLC in Annapolis at 410-995-7719 or Laurel 301-358-4340.