People are living longer than ever. It’s, therefore, important that you help your aging parents plan their finances and living arrangements. Those born today in the United States will have an average life span of 78.8 years. People born in 1900 didn’t live past 50 on average. That’s a 58% increase in longevity in just a little over 100 years. Although increased longevity is one of the great modern accomplishments, it also means that people are living longer in their twilight years on fixed incomes.
Three Things to Consider in Helping Your Aging Parents
Grown children have no legal obligation to help financially strapped aging parents who cannot support themselves in their retirement. However, most feel a moral obligation to do so. Seniors sometimes take out mortgages on their homes to have money to live on. They may find that it’s not enough, even with their pensions and social security benefits. Many older people do not want to go to a retirement community. If so with your parents, keep reading.
- Think now about your parents’ finances
Don’t be afraid to ask your parents what their plans are for the future. Will they have enough money to live? What is their monthly cost of living? Remember that their situation will also affect you, so it is natural for you to ask these questions, if you have your parents’ best interests at heart.
- Determine if other family members will contribute to your parents’ upkeep
Talk with your siblings to determine if they will contribute to helping your parents. If they will contribute, determine if your combined contributions would be enough to keep your parents in their home. Are there others who could contribute, such as grandchildren or in-laws? The parents and contributing family members should consult with their accountants to get accurate pictures of their assets and liabilities.
- Consider a live-in arrangement
Let’s assume, for this example, that Dad has passed away and Mom is trying to figure out how to comfortably live out her golden years. If there is not enough for Mom to live on, even with family member contributions, one sibling and their family might consider a co-living arrangement with Mom. However, know that selling Mom’s property, adding names to deeds and transferring Mom’s residence are all actions fraught with legal and financial pitfalls that may not be immediately apparent. Don’t act without first consulting an experienced elder law attorney. Transferring assets could have far-reaching and dire consequences, if you don’t get competent legal advice first.
What to Do before Combining Households with an Elderly Parent
Should you decide that a joint living situation seems to make sense, you have things to think about.
- Honestly consider whether your family and your parent or parents can live together harmoniously.
- All siblings should meet to determine how much they can contribute to your parents’ care, so the entire responsibility is not on the sibling who will share a home. Once again, determine if other family members will contribute. Discuss the amount that each can contribute, and when and how those contributions will be made.
- Think about long-term realities. Help your aging parents, but you must also think about your own necessities. It will not be helpful to put yourself into a situation where you do not have enough money for your own family.
- Consult with an estate planning attorney and an elder law attorney. All agreements should be in writing, so all parties are protected and promises are kept. You should consult an elder law attorney about:
- How you and your siblings can best help your parents financially;
- How your parents, you and your family can be protected legally and financially;
- How you can combine households without unexpected legal and financial consequences;
- How available government programs can help your parents and how your parents can qualify for Medicaid, if necessary;
- How your parents can secure a place in a retirement community or nursing home later, should living at home become unmanageable.
Help Your Parents Plan for Their Future
This may all seem a little overwhelming, and it’s easy to put off talking with your parents about their finances. However, the time to do it is before the situation becomes a crisis and you are trying to decide under intense stress. Remember that you are not alone. Call a good elder law attorney and make an appointment, so they can help you help your parents.