Many Americans are able to stay in their homes as they get farther into their senior years. Those without family nearby often rely on part-time or full-time caregivers to help them with things they can no longer do themselves.
If you have a caregiver you rely on and consider a friend, you may want to include them in your estate plan. However, you’re afraid that your adult children and other family members will believe you were the victim of “undue influence” and contest your estate plan after you’re gone.
You know there are cases where caregivers take advantage of elderly people and coerce or trick them into changing their estate plan to benefit them. How do you show that this isn’t the case so that you can save your family and your caregiver from a messy legal battle?
Communication is crucial
Talking to your family as you develop your estate plan is typically a good idea. This can prevent surprises when you’re no longer around to explain your thinking and help manage expectations. If you’re leaving some money or other assets to a caregiver, let your family know.
You don’t have to explain your decision, but it can help to let them know how this person has improved your life and prevented the need to move to an assisted living facility – or to ask them to help care for you. Assuming you’re not leaving your caregiver everything and cutting your kids out of your will (which you have a right to do if they’re independent adults), they shouldn’t have reason to object.
Other steps you can take
If you can afford to part with some money or other assets now, you may choose to gift your caregiver with them. It’s important to know how much you can give without gift taxes being due. You also may want to codify these gifts somewhere in your estate plan or elsewhere if you’re concerned that your family could cause problems. Be cautious about making promises of what they’ll get after you’re gone that aren’t backed up in your estate plan.
Having experienced legal guidance can help you ensure that your testamentary capacity – your ability to understand your decisions as you create your estate plan – isn’t called into question. This guidance can also help you prevent conflict among those you care about when you’re no longer around.