They call it the “Sandwich Generation,” those individuals who care for their young, college-aged, adult, or boomerang kids, while at the same time caring for and parents or in-laws who need some level of assistance. These, stuck-in-the-middle people are overworked, stressed, tired, and oftentimes financially strapped from the burden.
While the sandwich generation connotes comfort, the nitty-gritty is that caregiving for any one person is hard enough, but when attention and care must be divided among three generations, your parents, spouse, and children, the emotional, physical, and financial toll can become devastating. From both a practical and estate planning perspective, steps that caregivers might consider taking include the following:
Plan Ahead – Anticipate Problems Before Problems Arise:
As early as possible, consider typical sandwich generation issues. Initiate discussions with your parents about how they want to live, whether they have long term care insurance, what kind of health care and lifesaving measures are desired, and who should make legal and medical decisions for them if they are no longer able to handle their own affairs.
Apply the Golden Rule:
Remember your parents telling you that you should treat others as you would want to be treated? Well, now is the time to take that to heart. Too often, we equate intelligence with language and the ability to communicate, but how would you feel if you became hard of hearing or lost your ability to speak?
Essential legal documents:
In addition to a will, there are three basic estate planning documents that every adult should consider. A health care proxy (HCP) authorizes another to make health care decisions when someone cannot make those decisions for him/herself. A durable power of attorney (POA) authorizes someone to make decisions about issues in another’s legal world, such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, or almost anything relating to money.
The third document, a living will, provides a specific directive to the individual’s physician regarding under which circumstances the individual is to be kept alive by life sustaining equipment and when the physician is to stop such mechanical approaches and allow the patient to die with as much dignity and least pain as possible.
Preserve your own assets:
Financial planners constantly say that it is foolish to raid your retirement savings to pay for your children’s college education or your parents’ long-term care. Your kids can take out student loans that they have plenty of time to repay, and your parents’ own assets should finance their care for as long as possible.
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