It is estimated that by 2030 the population of LGBT Americans over the age of 65 will exceed eight million. Yet research shows that LGBT seniors are twice as likely to be single, twice as likely to live alone and three to four times less likely to have children than their heterosexual peers.1
While the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges paves the way for LGBT couples to pursue lives that include legal marriage and children, and levels the playing field in respect to shared benefits and final planning strategies, for many older LGBT individuals these newly conferred rights may be too late to overcome inadequate retirement savings and little or no long-term care planning.
For most people, the lion’s share of care and support later in life is provided by spouses, children and other family members. But what about when you’re 65+ and have never been married, have no children and may even be estranged from immediate family members, who will step in to manage your medical needs and financial affairs should you become unable? Out of necessity, many in the LGBT community rely on informal families made up of close, trusted friends. Although these networks can provide much needed personal and emotional support, they have little to no authority to act on your behalf without proper legal documentation.
Taking action for tomorrow
If you want to ensure that someone you trust has the ability to make important medical and financial decision on your behalf should you become incapacitated, and that your assets are distributed according to your wishes when you die, you need to have an attorney draft a legal Will along with a healthcare proxy and financial power of attorney. Without those documents, in most instances the courts will appoint a next-of-kin guardian to assume the responsibilities. Not only may that appointed individual not have your best interests at heart regarding medical and long-term care matters, they could choose not to abide by your wishes concerning the distribution of your assets to the individuals and/or causes that are dear to you.
You will also want to work closely with your advisor to address your unique financial needs. He or she can assist you in formulating a plan to accelerate your retirement savings, align an investment strategy to your long-term goals, explore insurance solutions that may help fund future long-term care needs and provide a meaningful legacy.
Additionally, there are a host of online resources available to assist with specific LGBT aging issues and concerns – from locating LGBT-friendly retirement communities and caregivers to maximizing government benefits and finding community volunteering opportunities. Two organizations of particular note are the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging (https://www.lgbtagingcenter.org ) and SAGE (https://www.sageusa.org ) which both publish a wide array of helpful studies, infographics, resource guides and checklists.
Rest assured that you are not alone. The sheer number of LGBT Baby Boomers who are currently in or soon to be entering retirement will continue to drive an expansion of and improvements in services and care options. What you need, however, is to put a plan in place that encompasses your entire financial, healthcare and legacy needs and desires for the future that lies ahead.