Social isolation is becoming an increasingly common problem for older Americans. In fact, according to AARP, more than 30% of those over the age of 45 say they regularly feel lonely. Loneliness, of course, can cause or exacerbate a host of physical and mental health problems.
To keep your elderly loved ones as healthy as possible, you probably want to maintain close contact. Simply by making regular phone calls and scheduling routine visits, you likely can reduce the negative consequences that come with social isolation. Still, if you have a lonely relative, he or she also may be vulnerable to a couple of estate planning problems.
Your loved one’s wishes
If your loved one is feeling lonely, he or she also may have lost the passion for estate planning. This may cause your relative to make decisions that do not make much sense to him or her. It also may encourage your loved one to disinherit you or other heirs. By taking steps to combat your relative’s loneliness, you can help him or her write a will that reflects his or her genuine wishes.
Even lonely individuals have the legal authority to write the estate plans they want, loneliness can increase a person’s risk of falling victim to undue influence. That is, if your relative is feeling lonely, he or she may allow an undue influencer to take advantage of him or her.
While the best time to deal with the potentially catastrophic consequences of loneliness is when your loved one is still alive, you may have to take action after his or her death. Ultimately, by contesting an unduly influenced will, you are likely to protect both your loved one’s legacy and your interests.