It is 10:30 P.M., do you know where your children are? Are they in bed, sleeping peacefully, while you worry about ongoing issues with caring for your aging parents? If this sounds familiar, you are a card-carrying
member of the “Sandwich Generation.”
In caring for (or anticipating the need to care for) your parents, you have probably already thought, “What do I do to make sure my kids don’t have to do this with me?” You are worrying about whether your parents have enough saved to last the rest of their lives, whether they will need to sell the home, whether you can avoid placing them in a nursing home, and whether you can afford to help subsidize their needs while continuing to meet your own. And, just as you do with your parents, you worry about the same concerns in your own life.
There are many things that you can do with your attorney and other trusted advisors to help plan for and insure against these concerns. With a properly drafted “testamentary special needs trust” (a trust that is formed after one spouse’s death for the benefit of the surviving, disabled spouse), assets can be preserved to supplement public benefits available to the elderly, maximizing the dollars available for the surviving spouse’s long-term care. Wealthier families can give funds away during healthier years, rendering funds unexposed to medical assistance liens from the State while retaining enough money to take advantage of the trust options that are available.
You can talk to your parents about this, too. The important thing to remember, and to demonstrate to them, is that estate planning is about them more than it is about you. One principal goal in “elder law”, the growing field that focuses on legal issues affecting the elderly, is to make sure that the clients do not outlive their money.
Often, estate planning is seen only as a way to minimize taxes owed at death and to maximize inheritance for the next generation. That is very nice to be able to do, but growing costs of health care and longer life spans are making it just as possible that our bodies will outlast our dollars saved. With some advance planning, we can be proactive, not reactive, and ease the concerns and burdens placed on ourselves and our loved ones.
So, for those of you in the ‘sandwich generation, it makes sense to think with your parents about estate planning and elder law issues. Time may be on your side and you can take longer strides in helping prevent your children from facing the same concerns that you face with yourself or with your parents. It may be easier for your parents to face events that are more imminent in their lives if their closest loved ones face the issues with them.
At Walsh & Company, P.A., our attorneys stand ready to consult with you, your parents and, if appropriate, your grown children, to help you navigate the maze of issues that face all of us as we age.