The term “sandwich generation”, coined more than forty years ago, was first used by social workers and gerontologists, Phoebe Ochman writes in a Chapters Health System blog. At the time, the generation in the sandwich was Baby Boomers, she notes; today it’s Gen Xers, squeezed between responsibilities for parents and for their own children.
Over the years at Geyer Law, we’ve found that complex sandwich generation issues have become a vital part of estate planning discussions. Not only is tailor-designed legal documentation needed in multi-generational situations, but a host of logistical, emotional, physical, and financial issues must be confronted and best solutions found..
The “sandwiched” population is growing – according to the Pew Research Center, one in eight Americans ages 40-60 is both supporting children and caring for one or both parents, with one in five Americans now family caregivers. Meanwhile, the over-65 population continues to grow. One commentator coined the term “club sandwich”, referring to adults in their 50s and 60s who help care for both aging parents and grandparents.
From an estate planning point of view, important documents must be put in place, including powers of attorney and healthcare documents. When grandparents move in with their children and contribute to household expenses, perhaps even to the mortgage payment, these arrangements must be finalized in writing and reflected in the estate planning documents. Proper planning can help avoid later inheritance disputes between the care giving sibling and other adult children, and ensure contributions towards expenses are not considered gifts should the grandparent later need to apply for Medicaid. Even absent a “sandwich” situation, many parents face a difficult choice between college savings for their children and contributing to their own retirement plans.
Sandwich generation caregivers need to consider the sobering possibility of their own deaths happening while both children and grandparents remain in need of help and financial support, perhaps using life insurance as a solution.
As parents and grandparents grow older, undergoing some measure of physical and cognitive decline, they naturally require more assistance, draining the time and resources of the “sandwiched”. But, if family caregivers receive support from others, they are able to have the time for self-care, reducing their chances of burnout, humangood.org suggests.
“Seek out and accept help,” the Legal Journey Law Firm urges responsibility-sandwiched adults. “Help for the elderly is well organized in the United States.”.
At Geyer Law, one of the reasons we refer to ourselves as elder law attorneys is that many aspects of our work are not about death or inheritance at all, but about helping different generations of family members plan together, not for their death, but for their best life.
– by Ronnie of the Rebecca W. Geyer blog team