Learning from your parents' estate planning

You're part of the sandwich generation, thus named because you have young kids of your own and you are also taking care of your elderly parents. No matter where you turn, someone needs help and assistance.

It's not easy. You love your family, but you run into all sorts of challenges. What can you learn from this experience? Can taking care of your parents help you discover some things about your own estate planning tactics?

Not writing a will

As you get the paperwork together, one issue that you may run into is that your parents do not have a will. Did you know that this is true for 64 percent of people in America? That's nearly two-thirds of the population. It means that the odds are very good that your parents never drafted one.

If you catch this fast enough, you can help them through it. When it drags on for too long, though, it can create problems. Did your parents really have the mental capacity to draft a will near the end of their lives? Do your own siblings feel that you are using undue influence to make the will act in your favor when you're really just trying to help? If your parents pass away without a will entirely, do you have any idea how your family is supposed to sort things out?

These are all good questions to ask, and they can show you the importance of writing your own will as soon as possible. You suddenly see just how critical this is. You know that you do not want to put your own children in this same situation.

No long-term care funding

Another issue you may find is that your parents never really saved up money for long-term care. Maybe they just did not realize how expensive it would be, and what they saved isn't enough.

For instance, one study found that a single year in a nursing home, with just a semi-private room, could cost between $36,850 and $112,400. Obviously, the costs could be vastly higher if your parent also needs special medical care, medications, extra assistance and the like. So, if your parents saved up $200,000 and thought it would be enough, the reality is that they could drain their life savings entirely in just a few years.

Going through this with your parents can show you the true cost of that late-life care. It also, once again, shows you the advantage of planning early. This is especially important if you want to protect your estate so that you can pass it on to your kids.

As you can see, you need to know all of your legal options, both for your parents and for yourself.

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