America has an aging population, and many seniors rely on professional caregivers to retain their independence and remain in their homes instead of going into long-term nursing care.
It’s only natural to feel a strong connection to a caregiver who has been with you for a long period of time, and you may be inclined to leave them a sum of money or other gifts in your will. If so, that’s you’re right – but you do need to take steps to make sure that your gift isn’t challenged by one of your natural heirs.
You want to eliminate any question of undue influence
If your natural heirs (those people related to you who would stand to inherit from your estate even if you didn’t have a will) are unhappy with your decision to leave a caregiver a bequest, they may allege that you were the victim of “undue influence.” Essentially, that means they might say that you were pressured, coerced or deceived into leaving that person some part of your estate.
You can take preemptive steps to refute the idea of undue influence, however, through careful planning:
- Visit your attorney on your own (not in your caregiver’s presence) to make the changes to your will, so that it’s clear that they aren’t standing over your shoulder telling you what to do.
- Ask your attorney to document your state of mind at the time you make the changes to your estate plans. If your will is contested, that can help the court establish the reasonableness of your actions.
- Inform your family of your intentions, so that they are not taken by surprise. This can help smooth over any unpleasantness that might otherwise arise after you’re gone.
- Document your reasoning for the gift. A letter left with your will that speaks about your decision to leave your caregiver a gift may clear up any questions.
If you’re worried about potential challenges to your will, it may be time to explore all your other estate planning options.