Estate planning and caring for elderly parents

Adult Quincy residents in their forties and fifties today are part of what has been referred to as the "sandwich" generation. They are sandwiched, that is, between caring for their kids and caring for their own elderly parents.

Providing care for aging parents -- without being paid for it -- is becoming more and more a part of life for adults in this age range. Care may include everything from cooking their meals and running errands for them to bringing them to appointments, managing their medications and handling their bills and finances. Over 43 million Americans have engaged in this type of parent support within the past year, according to a recent study. Nearly 20 percent of those responding to the study indicated they do this on a full-time basis.

There is an understanding, or perhaps an assumption, among many that their elderly parents are at least including them in their estate plan. Given the lost wages incurred by adult caregivers, and the corresponding reduction in their own Social Security retirement benefits, this arrangement makes a lot of sense. However, it's not guaranteed by any means; there is no law or rule that caregivers inherit commensurate with their efforts.

It's entirely possible that a parent could be splitting an estate equally among sibling children, for example, even though one may take on the bulk of the work and expense caring for that parent. Other siblings may not even live in Massachusetts or make any kind of contribution to the parent's care. The parent may have set up this estate plan years ago, before one sibling took on the responsibility for care.

Estate planning may be an uncomfortable subject to raise with one's elderly parents, but there is no easy way around having the conversation. A legal professional may be able to assist children and their parents with drafting or updating the estate plan to reflect the amount of time and effort that an adult child has committed to caring for the parent.

Source: Marketwatch, "I take care of my father - shouldn't he leave his estate to me instead of my sister?," Quentin Fottrell, Feb. 4, 2018

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