You may be familiar with the term “sandwich generation.” By definition the term refers to middle aged adults who are caring for their own families and are simultaneously caring for their aging parents. This is an incredible amount of responsibility for an individual or couple who is likely fully immersed in their own career and life plans.
These clients often come to us needing to address two very different problems. First, they are thinking of creating an estate plan for the first time as parents. (When young children depend on you it can motivate you to get your estate in order.) Second, and simultaneously, they may be taking on a similar role for their own parents. This is often a stressful and uncomfortable responsibility: the child becoming the caregiver.
There are a number of recommendations for individuals in the sandwich generation that can make this transition slightly less stressful including establishing a college savings plan for children early, protecting retirement savings and encouraging parents to purchase long term care insurance. Another great tool of course is an estate plan.
A valid durable power of attorney or medical power of attorney signed by a parent authorizing his or her grown children to act as an agent for any financial and medical decisions would allow the grown child to step in and assist at a moment’s notice, without lengthy and expensive court proceedings. In fact, these are valuable documents for individuals of any age because they allow trusted family members and friends to represent your wishes in any number of scenarios.
A properly executed will is also a very important part of an estate plan. Any aging parents’ will may just need a review but it is important to locate original documents and make sure that the terms still represent the parents’ wishes. Are the named Executors still alive and capable of serving? Does the language conform with current law? A will is also extremely important for the caregiving child, especially if he or she is married and/or has young children. A will allows young parents to set aside assets for their minor children in a worst case scenario and avoid a potential costly guardianship. They can also name future guardians to care for children if they are unable to do so themselves.
Being a caregiver for both the young and old simultaneously can be an overwhelming experience. It is not easy having two very different generations dependent on you. However, the roles can be made easier if some planning is done in advance giving you the authority to step in and help when needed.