Can your family dispute an inheritance to your caregiver?

Are you one of the many California seniors who has been able to continue living in your own home with the help of a caregiver who comes to your home and on whom you rely to maintain your general independence? You may have grown very close to this person if they’ve been with you for a few years or even more. 

You’d like to add them as a beneficiary in your will or living trust. However, you’re concerned that your adult children or maybe other close family members will dispute this inheritance – even if you still have plenty to leave them. You’re concerned that they may claim this person exerted undue influence on you to include them in your estate plan and initiate a legal contest. What can you do to prevent this?

What does California probate law say?

First, it can help to be familiar with California probate law. It takes into consideration that elderly and/or dependent people can be vulnerable to undue influence by caregivers and others on whom they rely. The law states in part, “A provision of an instrument making a donative transfer to any of the following persons is presumed to be the product of fraud or undue influence:….”A care custodian of a transferor who is a dependent adult…if the instrument was executed during the period in which the care custodian provided services to the transferor, or within 90 days before or after that period.”

The law also states, however, “The presumption may be rebutted by proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that the donative transfer was not the product of fraud or undue influence.” That means you can prevent your caregiver (or any of the other people described in this law) from having to go to court to prove that you wanted them to have a specified inheritance.

What can you do to prevent disputes?

Communicating with your family while you’re alive, well and of sound mind is one important step. While you shouldn’t have to explain what you’re choosing to do with your assets, it can prevent problems after you’re gone. Another option is to give some assets (especially if it’s jewelry or things you no longer need) to your beneficiary while you’re still around. Just be careful about triggering gift taxes.

Having experienced legal guidance as you develop or amend your estate plan can help you avoid situations in which you could be inviting a challenge to it and help ensure that those you want to receive your assets can more easily do so.




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