Nearly 20 percent of today’s American households are multigenerational. A multigenerational household is defined as two or more adult generations living in one home or grandparents living in the same household as grandchildren younger than 25. The lifestyle can be positive for all concerned, but multigenerational living presents certain issues. Before you add that in-law suite, take a look at the important relational, financial and legal factors you need to consider.
Matters to talk about in multigenerational living
Parents often move in with adult children to get help with difficult circumstances, such as pressing financial or medical needs. The rising expense of assisted living facilities may be out of reach and make an in-law suite or other living arrangements an attractive option.
If you are considering multigenerational living, here are just a few of the issues each generation should discuss openly with the other.
- What are the expectations of both the parents and the younger generations?
- How will costs and household duties be shared? Financial issues need to be discussed particularly candidly. Keep in mind that utility costs, insurance, and maintenance expenses will all increase as the household expands.
- If there are grandchildren, will the grandparents help with their care?
- Will the adult children need to provide transportation for Mom and Dad for errands, doctor’s appointments and similar activities?
- What will happen as Mom and Dad become more dependent? Are you prepared to care for your parents? Will one spouse be able to quit their job if necessary to care for an elder? Will the caretaker be able to manage other family responsibilities while caring for this person? What will you do if a parent develops a condition requiring care beyond your ability, such as Alzheimer’s?
Depending on the situation, other details need to be ironed out before everyone moves in together. An expert mediator, such as a senior housing adviser, can help address concerns that the family may not anticipate. Decisions about these issues should be written down, perhaps with help from an attorney — not because the parties don’t trust each other, but to avoid later misunderstandings.
Creating the living space
You can create an in-law suite in several ways. Perhaps the garage can be converted, or consider adding on to your home or building a new structure on your property. For the sake of privacy, segregating your parents’ living space from the rest of the household benefits everyone.
No matter the situation, important financial and practical considerations will arise. A garage conversion may begin at $10,000, whereas adding an addition or a separate cottage could top $100,000. One-story living is always best for aging adults. Their living space will need features that accommodate declining mobility, such as wider halls, lower counters and faucets, lipless showers, and lever door and faucet handles.
You will need to research and apply for the necessary approvals and permits from your homeowners’ association, zoning board, and city building inspectors. Some areas restrict the development of structures that aren’t attached to the main house on a lot.
Consult an attorney if you plan to deed any portion of the in-law suite to your parents. Be aware this decision could affect the future sale of your house. You can expect to get back about two-thirds of your in-law suite investment when you sell your home.