The ‘Sandwich Generation’ is no longer a novel phenomenon and now that we are living longer it is here to stay.
How does it affect you? Well, the effects are doubtless only to clear to those in the ‘sandwich filling’ position, but they should not be the only ones to give the matter thought.
Life for the ‘fillers’ is inevitably stressful because of the conflicting demands on their time and resources made by their children (and in some cases grandchildren), their parents and, usually, their own working lives. Often, they feel that they have no life of their own to speak of – and this at a time when they should be in their prime. When their parents were their age often only one spouse worked and their parents had predeceased them. The are seen as having had ‘a life’.
As a member of the top ‘sandwich layer’ you can mitigate the demands on your children’s overstretched time by taking the trouble to make Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA) in respect of both your finances and your welfare. If you do not do this and you subsequently become unable to manage your own affairs, then you will saddle your children with the job of making an application for an appointment by the Court of Protection of a ‘Deputy’ (who may or may not be a child of yours) to manage things for you. The process of making such an application is very much slower and much more expensive than making an LPA. The cost of the exercise will be borne by you. That is bad enough. From your children’s point of view the position is worse. The burden of time to be invested in securing an Order appointing a Deputy would have to be absorbed by them. The process can take many weeks and the duties of a Deputy, once appointed involve the keeping of accounts and regular contact with and payments to the Court. If your children are trying to manage their own working lives and support their children then the burden can be crippling. It is simply not fair to put them in such a position when it is so easy to think ahead and put proper arrangements in place.
It is also helpful to let your family know what sort of care you would like, should you need it – and where, if you know of somewhere which you think would suit you. Tell them what your funeral wishes are, too. We frequently receive anxious calls from family members who have just lost a parent asking us to check Wills we are holding for them as the family has no idea whether they wanted to be buried or cremated, whether they wanted to donate organs for transplant and what sort of service (if any) they would have wanted. These things really worry families. They do not want to make a decision of which they think the parent may not have approved.
If a member of the older generation dies without having made a Will then, again, the work for their children will be greater than if they have had the foresight to make a proper Will (drawn by a qualified solicitor, please, not an unqualified Will-writer!). It is not kind to leave your children with unnecessary work to do when you could save them so much trouble by planning ahead.
If you are in the ‘filler’ category then do not forget that you should be thinking about making LPAs and Wills, too, to save your own children the burden you are hoping your parents will save you after reading this.
It is a pity that death and old age infirmity are so little discussed these days within families. We have become coy about these topics and tend only to talk about them when circumstances force us to – but so much anguish can be avoided if families have realistic discussions about future arrangements and expectations. Clients of mine who have done this report that the exercise has been surprisingly liberating and can actually be surprisingly jolly! Try it over the bank holiday weekend.