How to leave assets to caregivers and avoid a family will contests
Are you one of the many Americans who’s “aging in place?” Even if you’re living in your own home and leading a relatively independent life, you likely still rely on one or more people to help you with things like repairs, getting to and from doctors’ appointments and helping you master the latest in electronics.
If your children and grandchildren don’t live nearby, those people may be paid caregivers, neighbors or friends. If you’ve become very close to one or two of them and realize how crucial they’ve been to helping you avoid assisted living, you may be considering including them in your will or living trust.
There’s just one problem: You’re afraid your adult children or other family members will contest your estate plan – even though you have no intention of disinheriting them. You fear they’ll claim that a non-family beneficiary exerted undue influence on you and somehow manipulated or tricked you into leaving them money or other assets.
Communication is a good first step
There are steps you can take to help prevent that. The first is talking to your family about your estate plan. This way they have some idea of what to expect and a chance to understand your thinking and ask questions. You can explain how these people have been important in your life, and that you just want to leave them something when you’re gone.
These conversations can also help you alleviate any concerns your family may have about your ability to make decisions for yourself and understand those decisions. This is referred to as “mental capacity” under California law. If you’re still concerned that this may be questioned, you may want to talk to your doctor about getting documentation. Having experienced legal guidance as you develop and make any modifications to your estate plan may help avoid any serious challenges.
Gifting assets while you’re alive
If you’d rather avoid what you think will be a contentious conversation with family and the possibility of a will contest, you may opt to gift your caregivers with some assets while you’re still around – as long as they aren’t valuable enough to trigger gift taxes. That may still require some documentation so that family members don’t accuse anyone of stealing.
The smart thing to do is discuss all of this and any other concerns with an estate planning professional. They can help you find the best way to leave something to those you care about, whether they’re your relatives or not.