Tuesday, August 16, 2011

5 Ways to Ease the Burden When Caring for Kids and Aging Parents

5 Ways to Ease the Burden When Caring for Kids and Aging Parents

Did you know we just completed National Sandwich Generation Month? You may have never heard of it before, but if you care for aging parents and young children, you are part of this rapidly growing demographic.  The burden of shouldering so much responsibility can be overwhelming.  

Common struggles include having to pay for mom or dad’s long-term care, shielding mom or dad’s assets from nursing home facilities and cleaning up a financial or legal mess in the absence of proper planning. If you are facing these same struggles right now, there are a number of planning steps you can take to ease the legal and financial pain. Here are 5 suggestions to ease the transition, both for you and your parents:

1. Don’t Wait.  Find out what type of estate planning documents your parents have in place (i.e. will, trust, power of attorney) while there is still time to update them. If their medical directives were created pre-HIPPA, they should be reviewed immediately by an attorney. 

2. Sit Down With Parents Every 2-3 Years to Review their Estate Plan. Make sure their wishes are the same and that they still approve of the people they chose to make important end-of-life decisions on their behalf.  Make sure your parents have an Advance Medical Directive so they may communicate desires to physicians and family members regarding all forms of medical treatment, including preferences as life support, organ donation, funeral arrangements, and disposition of remains.  There has been some concern among attorneys as to whether the public will understand the need to properly plan a will or trust in light of these large exemptions.  On the contrary, the new tax laws that are in-flux should, if anything, prompt families to seek an updated assessment of their existing will or trust documents. 

3. Consider a Trust.  Not a Will.  Consider placing all of mom or dad’s assets into the right kind of trust so they stay protected and out of the equation if your parents ever need to apply for Medicaid benefits or go into a nursing home.  A Certified Elder Law Attorney can help with this and save your family substantial sums of money.  Medicaid is not just for the “poor,” but is a government program meant to pay for the long-term care needs of Middle Class Americans, too.     

4. Locate Existing Documents Immediately.  If your parents expect you to fulfill a particular role or carry out an important task upon their death, the documents giving you these rights should be stored somewhere safe. Taking these steps will help ease the pressure of being “Sandwiched” between caring for young children and aging parents. They will also help to ensure that mom or dad’s assets stay protected and that you are in the best position to honor their wishes during the later stages of life. 

5. Consider Mediation.  Have the tough conversations with mom or dad about their wishes now while they are still active and in good health. Find out what type of long-term care they want (or don’t want) and be sure to document their wishes accordingly.

Sometimes the consequence of dealing with the final years of elderly parents can break families apart and create long-lasting animosity.  Suspicions or distrust often lead to anger and the anger often leads to severing the channels of communication between family members. This can occur between parent and child or between siblings or between all of them.

Mediation allows parents to focus on their abilities rather than their limitations; allows children to come up with and consider options not thought of previously; encourages uninvolved family members to become involved; and allows parents to express wishes and desires that had previously gone unuttered.

Members of the Sandwich Generation have a lot on their plate (no pun intended).  But with proper planning you can give your family and your parents the peace of mind they deserve.  

Unfortunately, true asset protection can only be achieved through complex strategies.  A living trust isn't enough, and a will most definitely isn't either.  A Living Trust Plus™, however, just might be the answer for many Americans.  You see, it's capable of *not just* probate avoidance, but also protection from the biggest creditors most Americans face during their lifetimes - nursing homes. Here is the page if you are interested in asking your attorney if he or she is a part of this network. 

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