This article was written by Estate Planning Attorney Sarah J. Corney for the Buzz Book, Fall 2022.
Caught in the middle caring for older and younger generations? Running between pediatricians and geriatricians addressing medical and legal needs? As a member of the sandwich generation you need to know:
For the Older Generation: If your loved one is legally competent, they should meet with a lawyer to have the following legal documents prepared:
- Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will (sometimes called advanced directives)
- General/Financial Durable Power of Attorney
These documents appoint decisionmakers to assist with their medical and financial matters. Sign documents now, while they can travel and communicate their wishes, to help smooth the transition to times when they may not be able to do so. These documents keep medical and financial affairs private, and save time and money, along with avoiding court intervention. If possible, these documents should include a “back-up” person who could step in if you are no longer able to provide care. The lawyer may recommend a trust or last will and testament.
If your loved one is no longer able to communicate their wishes and these documents are not in place, consult with a lawyer about alternative options, such as guardianships.
More importantly, here is what not to do:
- Do not transfer assets into your own name or add yourself as a co-owner. This may disqualify your loved one for government benefits for nursing home care or may be perceived as coercive, potentially having either financial or criminal consequences to you as the caregiver.
- Do not add or change beneficiaries to bank accounts, retirement accounts, or life insurance policies, without legal guidance.
Before assisting with major financial decisions, carefully consider tax consequences and the effect on eligibility for government benefits (not as simple as a Google search).
For the Younger Generation: For many families, the biggest legal concern for their young children is what happens if you die or are unable to care for them. In your last will and testament or power of attorney, include guardianship provisions specifying who will care for them in your absence.
If you care for a person with special needs (from physical impairments to developmental disabilities), you may need additional planning, such as a supplemental needs trust and an ABLE account. Seek assistance in determining what government benefits programs apply and their eligibility requirements.
For Yourself: As a caregiver take care of yourself through rest, exercise and nutrition. See a lawyer and set up your own plan for health care and finances in case of illness or death. Your estate plan benefits the older and younger generations in your care.
To learn more about survival skills for the sandwich generation, contact Sarah at 419-249-7900, or email her at email@example.com.