Elder law and estate planning attorneys help people prepare for their senior years as they take steps to leave suitable legacies for their loved ones if it is at all possible. Loneliness can certainly be a challenge for elders that lose their spouses, and there is no one easy answer that is right for everyone.
Some seniors have family members, friends, and neighbors that try to fill the gaps, but people live busy lives, and it can be hard for them to carve out sufficient time. In other cases, no one is there to make much of an effort to provide even a little bit of occasional companionship.
The general impact of this lack of contact is obvious, and even worse, loneliness can lead to missteps that can yield very negative consequences. Billions of dollars are lost each year through acts of elder financial abuse, and people that are very hungry for human contact can let their guard down.
If you are in this position, even if you are in full control of your faculties, you may be willing to take chances that you would have never taken otherwise. There are those that also allow themselves to be financially exploited by caregivers and “new friends” because they simply do not want to surrender that much-needed contact with others.
As we stated in the opening, there is no magic wand to rectify these situations. However, there is an option that can dramatically improve your life if you are an elder who can use some day-to-day friendship.
Man’s Best Friend
There is no substitute for human contact, and we are not going to suggest otherwise. That being said, man’s best friend earned this nickname for a reason. If you were to bring a dog into your home, you would enhance your life in numerous ways.
In addition to the canine friendship factor, you feel a renewed sense of purpose when you have a dependent of sorts relying on you for everything. This can be invaluable, and you can’t help but feel a sense of warmth in your heart when you see that tail wag.
A dog will need exercise, and this can give you some incentive to get out of the house and take walks if you are able. At the park, you will invariably meet other dog owners and pet lovers. This will give you an opportunity to make some acquaintances as you enjoy the fresh air.
Even if you have physical limitations that do not allow you to walk for significant distances, you will still live a more active life if you have a dog. Clearly, any exercise that you get is a positive. Plus, studies have determined that pet ownership can improve your mental health as well.
An added bonus is the fact that a canine can act as a protector. A larger dog can certainly provide a deterrent (and more if necessary), and small dogs have loud voices. They will always let you know if there are any unusual sounds outside the door.
Estate Planning Implications
If it is clear to you that pet ownership could be a great way to combat loneliness during your elder years, it would be natural to have longevity concerns. You may predecease the animal, and under these circumstances, how would it be cared for going forward?
A pet trust is the ideal solution. Your pet would be the first beneficiary of the trust. In the trust declaration, you would name a trustee to act as the administrator after you are gone.
You could leave detailed instructions in this document with regard to the way that you want the pet to be provided for after your passing. The trustee would be legally obligated to follow your instructions so you would be certain that your pet would get the right treatment.
To account for assets that may remain in the trust after the death of the dog, you would name a successor beneficiary. This person would assume ownership of the remainder after the passing of the pet.
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We are here to help if you would like to discuss your estate planning objectives with a licensed attorney. You can schedule an appointment right now if you give us a call at 704-944-3245 in North Carolina (Charlotte, NC and Huntersville, NC), and the number for our Kentucky office is 606-324-5516 for Ashland, KY or 859-372-6655 for Florence, KY. If you would rather reach out electronically, simply fill out the contact form on this website.