Estate Planning for a Multi-Generational Family

Times have changed and so has the idea of what a traditional family looks like. Due to economic or practical circumstances, more households have become multi-generational homes with grandparents, parents and children all living under one roof, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data. The dynamic of a multi-generational household poses an additional level of importance on good estate planning.

Let’s look at the different aspects of how estate planning can provide guidance for each stage of life. For parents, writing a will is about naming guardians for their children. A guardian is a person who would take over if both parents become incapacitated for a period of time or should they pass away. The question becomes, “who will raise my children the way I would want them to be raised?” It is crucial that parents have a Last Will and Testament drawn up in order to effectively appoint a guardian for their minor children. Otherwise, the court, not knowing your wishes, may appoint a guardian that may not necessarily want.

Parents with college bound kids need to look at estate planning from a different perspective. In the case where a child may be away at school and become injured or incapacitated, you may not be able to gain access to information or make medical decisions for them. Due to HIPAA laws, universities and hospitals are unable to speak wit you or provide any information to you if your child is 18 or older and does not have proper legal documentation.

To avoid such a situation, everyone 18 years or older, Should have a Health Care Proxy, HIPAA Release and a Durable Power of Attorney. The Health Care Proxy allows parents the power to make medical decisions during incapacitation. A HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) allows the hospital to divulge medical information to you. Without it, legally, a hospital does not have to provide you with any medical updates on your child’s condition. Finally, a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) means that you can make financial decisions, pay bills, etc. on your child’s behalf during a period of incapacitation.

On the other end of the spectrum is the aging parent that may have moved in with family. Since people are living longer than ever before, many adult children and their parents are living together for a variety of reasons. For some, elderly parents move in with their children for support. For others, the economy makes it increasingly difficult for either generation to live comfortably on their own and within their means. When it comes to estate planning for aging parents, there are a number of areas multi generational families should consider:

  • Long-Term Care Planning and Medicaid (MassHealth) eligibility including the impact of gifting to children and grandchildren
  • Preserving ownership of a family home or personal assets
  • Managing retirement security
  • Minimizing estate taxes and gift taxes
  • Bloodline planning in cases of divorce, bankruptcy
  • Providing for the care of a special needs child or sibling

Then we have the “sandwich generation,” which are those who are in the middle, raising their own children and caring for their aging parent. This can be a tough spot and it is important for this group to address their estate planning needs so that those they are caring for are protected in the event of a crisis.

Contact us today to prepare and estate plan for all the generations of your family. With your goals in mind, and using appropriate strategies for you, our lawyers will create a comprehensive estate plan that protects you , your family and your assets. Our partners are Certified Elder Law Attorneys (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation. This makes our team uniquely qualified to create plans that prepare you for life’s unknowns and provides you with peace of mind. We proudly serve Southeastern Massachusetts, Cape Cod and the Islands and are here to protect what means the most to you.

©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street,   Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375.  This article is for illustration purposes only.  This handout does not constitute legal advice.  There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article.  DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout.  Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney.  Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.