Estate Planning for the Sandwich Generation… What You Need to Know

sandwich generationHow do you know if you are part of the current sandwich generation?

If you are like me, you are a member of “Generation X”, a demographic grouping of people who were born somewhere between the mid-60’s and the early 80’s. Do the math and you should be in your 30’s or 40’s right now.

What is unique about this age range?

For starters, it makes you part of the current “sandwich generation”. In other words, you are old enough to have young children that you must care for, but still young enough to have aging parents that may also require your care.

This can be an extremely stressful position to be in, from both an emotional and a financial perspective. You are working hard to take care of your family, but there are emotional strings tugging on you from your aging parents who also may need your help.

All in all, getting pulled in both directions can lead to a lot of frustration and in some cases, mental breakdowns.

And nobody would blame you.

Raising children by itself can be extremely stressful.

Trust me, with a 3, 5, and 7 year old at home, I know first hand how hard raising kids can be.

My three kids… when they were a bit younger.

Take all that stress from raising kids, and pile on the additional burden of caring for an elderly parent and life becomes nearly impossible.

How to Make it All Work?

The first thing you should do is make sure that you take care of your family and your children. Let’s call this the “bottom” half of the sandwich. They (your kids) have nobody else to take care of them except for you and your spouse. (And if you are a single parent or divorced, it’s even more important that you are there for your kids).

You must make sure that you have a plan in place to take care of your children if something were to happen to you and your spouse. This could include:

I realize this probably seems like a lot of information to gather and even more work to do.

It is.

But preparing a comprehensive plan like this is a gift that your family and loved ones will cherish should anything unexpected ever happen to you.

The Top of the Sandwich

The top of the sandwich is your dear, elderly, aging parents. You love them so much and you want them to live as long as possible. You couldn’t imagine life without them, and you would do anything for them.

Once again, I understand your thoughts and emotions. My own mother passed away from cancer in 2016. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her dearly. Last Friday she would have celebrated her 69th birthday.

One of my favorite pictures of my Mom and my son, taken just months before she died.

So how do you make sure that your parents are taken care of?

Honestly, it will depend on their mental state. If they are starting to suffer from dementia or have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, then time may be of the essence.

You need to talk to your parents and possibly your siblings about what type of plan your parents have in place to manage their affairs if or when they are no longer cognitively able to do so on their own.

Many people from our parent’s generation were loath to discuss money and their financial affairs with their children. But having this conversation now is incredibly important. Especially if your parents are still of sound mind.

If your parents do not have an estate plan in place, then this is as good a time as any to get that done – they aren’t getting any younger. But if they do have an estate plan in place, now may be a good time to make sure it is properly updated.

If it is too difficult for you and your parents to have this talk (my mother refused to talk to me about her estate plan – all she would tell me is that it was taken care of), then consider taking them to an estate planning seminar to learn more about the estate planning pitfalls that they may have to deal with.

That way they can determine on their own whether they need additional planning or not.

If your parents are open to talking to you about their planning, then here are a few topics that you may want to address with them:

  • Nursing Home Care or Assisted Living: Under what circumstances would they want to leave their home and enter a retirement community or nursing facility? Many elderly have very strong feelings about this.
  • Medicaid Planning: Depending on their age and mental and physical abilities, one or both of your parents may require Medicaid planning to assist in paying for long-term care expenses or to preserve assets for the “well” spouse.
  • Various Estate Planning Needs: Your parents may need to put in place one or more of the following documents: Will, Durable and/or Health Care Power of Attorney, Advanced Directives (aka living will), Revocable Living Trust, or a Letter of Instruction. I’m absolutely amazed by the number of pre-retirement and elderly clients I come into contact with that have never done any type of estate planning at all.

Final Thoughts about the Sandwich Generation

As a final thought, even though your children and your parents are important parts of your life, you should not neglect yourself while taking care of everyone else in your family.

Making sure that you are eating properly, exercising, and taking time for yourself are important also – even though these may seem to be impossible tasks at times.

But that’s not all, you must make sure that your legal affairs are in order to protect your loved ones from an unexpected tragedy.

If you or your parents need help with their estate plan or planning for how to pay for a retirement community, feel free to call us at (919) 460-5422 or fill out our online contact form by clicking here.