From a425couple@21:1/5 to All on Sun Feb 4 11:28:57 2018
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I take care of my father — shouldn’t he leave his estate to me instead
of my sister?
Published: Feb 4, 2018 11:14 a.m. ET
This woman cooks all her father’s meals and drives him to appointments
PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR
I’m hoping you can help, if not with advice and practical change, with developing perspective. I live in Massachusetts. I’m middle-aged,
disabled, and have two kids. One is in middle school, the other is an
adult, but not fully launched.
I moved in with my father after my mother died. He cannot live alone
safely. I live “rent free,” but pay utilities, buy the groceries, pay
the cleaners and yard man. I also have underwritten a great deal of
travel for my dad.
I also cook all of his meals, do the shopping and errands, drive him to appointments, take him to see his friends, and run his small business.
I’ve invested my own, and my kids’ money into necessary repairs to his house, plus applied enormous sweat equity.
The estate is to be divided evenly between my sibling and myself upon my dad’s passing. I used to be okay with that. But now? Not so much. We’ve received literally 90 minutes of help in the last three years. She
doesn’t chip in financially, temporally, or physically. (Nor does her husband, who doesn’t work.) She has advanced degrees, excellent
retirement savings, owns her home, and has a fine career.
I have Social Security and child support (the latter for just 10 more
years.) I used to be fine with the “fairness” of the estate plan. Now I find myself very hurt and angry. It didn’t help this year that I alone wasn’t given a present at Christmas. What do you think? How can I either broach this subject, or alter my thinking. It is hurting me and my
relationship with my dad. Though I doubt he is aware of that.
You could walk out that door any minute, and not look back. But you
didn’t. You chose to stay. Your dad can decide to leave his estate to
the dogs and cats’ home if he wants. But he has chosen to leave it
50/50. It’s a messy business. You all have choices, but how do you
navigate those? Firstly, let me say: I’m with you. If you are taking
care of your father and your sister is financially secure, I see no
reason why he shouldn’t leave you his home.
Life isn’t fair. And neither are inheritances. Would your sister think
it’s fair? Probably not. Is it fair for you to do all the heavy lifting
with your dad while your sister doesn’t help? That’s not fair either. There’s no magic formula in situations like this where everyone walks
away a winner. You are trying to do the right thing with good intentions
and no resentments, so I absolutely think you should go through your
father’s finances with him and ask him about his estate plan.
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Then, kindly and without rancor, give him your considered opinion. Your
father has many options open to him. He could give you the right to live
in his home for the rest of your life and then split the proceeds from
its sale equally between his grandchildren. That way, you address the
financial inequity in your sister’s life and your own, while still
ensuring that his estate is divided equally between his family members.
You’re not alone. More than 43.5 million adults in the U.S. have
provided unpaid care to an adult or a child within the prior 12 months, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute, the advocacy group for
Americans aged 50 years and older. More than 18% of the respondents
interviewed reported being full-time caregivers. Some 60% of caregivers
are female and the average age is 49.
The total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and social security
benefits of these caregivers of parents are nearly $3 trillion,
according to “The MetLife Study of Caregiving Costs to Working
Caregivers.” The cost impact of caregiving on the individual caregiver
in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits equates to around
$324,044 for a woman and $303,880 for a man. Your sister may also be
entitled to reimbursements.
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As former MarketWatch writer Charles Passy wrote about taking care of
his own father: “I’m a member of what’s been dubbed the “sandwich generation” — that is, the population of middle-aged adults (I’m 51) who are caught between taking care of their children and taking care of
their parents. And a sizable population it is: Almost half of adults in
their 40s and 50s fit my profile, according to the Pew Research Center,
a nonprofit think-tank in Washington, D.C.”
In the meantime, you have other financial alternatives. There are many
online resources to see if your father qualifies for public benefits
from state, federal, and private programs that help pay for groceries, prescription drugs, health insurance and home help. The Massachusetts
Caregiver Homes Program allows family members who act as caregivers such
as yourself to be reimbursed for their services by MassHealth, according
to the Heritage Law Center.
If you are not happy after discussing this with your father, you have
the option to walk.
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