When I was twelve, my parents paid me 25 cents for every paper grocery bag I filled with dandelions dug from the lawn. I told them I did not want the Job. They informed me I had no choice. For two weeks each spring I earned two dollars a week.
That was then. How about now?
Now I help my mother with her bills, take her to her doctor appointments and go to her home twice a week to clean and help her bathe. Can I be paid? Of course she can pay me. She could pay a total stranger to do the same, but would rather compensate me, someone she trusts.
How can that be a problem?
• My two brothers, who live out of town, think I should work for free. They express their unhappiness when our mother tells them I am being paid.
• The amount of money my mother pays varies from nothing to handing me a $100 bill on occasion.
• Paying me may make it impossible for my mother to get government help paying for long term residential care if she needs it in the future.
What is the solution?
Have a written “service contract” signed by the parent and the child that sets out what is being paid for and how much. The pay is taxable income to a child, and should be reported on that child’s income taxes. The child should keep a detailed list of the work performed and the time it takes and present this as a bill each month.
Why bother with all this busyness?
Everyone will understand what is expected. The parent may feel better about asking for help. The other siblings will be aware that the services provided are significant. The caregiver child will continue to pay into the social security system and be compensated for time away from a paying job. If there is no signed contract, and the parent needs help paying for long term residential care in the future, the state and federal Medicaid program will not be available to help the parent. Medicaid regards payments to children as a “gift” if there is no written contract.
Avoid generic forms. It is much better to work with an experienced Elder Law attorney. Your attorney can explain what services and provisions should be covered in the contract.
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