Last week Reuters discussed the growing number of adult Americans who are financially supporting their senior parents. As the author quips, many of these residents have becomes the “Bank of Sons and Daughters” after the recent financial crisis decimated the savings of many elderly family members. According to MetLife‘s new National Health and Retirement Study, the percentage of adult children spending time and money on their parent’s care has tripled in the last decade and a half. This comes as no surprise to our New York elder law attorneys who know that rising long-term care costs, the economic downturn, and failure to plan ahead for senior care places many families in tough situations when a loved one ages and needs extra day-to-day care.
The MetLife data found that roughly a quarter of all adults are currently providing at least some financial assistance to their parents. A similar survey from Caring.com suggests that adult children may be providing even more support, as thirty two percent of respondents said they’ve spent at least $5,000 on their parents’ living expenses within the last year. A large majority of that group admitted that supporting their parents leads them to worry about their own long-term financial situation. As one researcher involved in the data collection explained, “There are just a ton of families where the second or third generation needs to help the first generation. People are asking, a lot, about how to do it.”
Not only does financially supporting aging parents often place stress on the finances of the adult children, but, if not done properly, it may actually be harmful to the senior. As each New York elder law attorney at our firm has explained to local residents, it is important to properly tailor financial gifts such that they don’t inadvertently disqualify the parent from government benefits. Certain programs are in place to help seniors receive the care they need even if they do not have the resources to purchase it. However, qualification for those programs, such as New York Medicaid, is based on need. If adult children do not take those qualifications into account, they may unknowingly complicate their parent’s program participation.
Consultation with a professional in the area is necessary to learn smart ways to provide financial aid. For instance, if small annual gifts are given–up to $13,000 a year–then there are no gift tax consequences. That amount may double if you are married, as both spouses have separate tax-free limits. In other situations, it may be appropriate to help parents with a loan. This avoids gift complications and may be useful to help with specific issues–such as paying off accumulated credit card debt. As one expert explained, “Giving your parents a loan helps them avoid exorbitant interest rates, but they’re still responsible for their own debts.”
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