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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

What issues are raised when an inheritance passes outside the family?

Unfortunately, estate litigation is not rare. Beneficiaries can be protective of their potential inheritance, and sometimes do not look kindly upon individuals they may see as interlopers. Many of us know of situations in which a gift to a caregiver or friend was looked upon with great suspicion by the deceased's family.

Do you know why this is such a big area of contention? It's not necessarily greed on the part of the beneficiaries. A large number of them are concerned that their elderly relative might have been subject to financial abuse.

Lawyer Kyle Krull recently wrote an article talking about what can happen when a will leaves a gift to someone who is not a family member, and why that seems to be such a problem. Mr Krull is American, but the issues are relevant in our country as well. Click here to read the article.


  1. What, then, can a person (say, and elderly person) do if this person wishes to leave some or all the money to someone else?

    I try to imagine what it would be to BE the elderly parent, - having spent your whole life nurturing the kids, bailing them out of this & that, always offering a home should they need it. Then, when you are too old to be useful but more of a burden, you find yourself packed off to a nursing home and all your lovely furniture and things dispersed, sold, given away, . . . and there you are, dumped in a "care" facility with only your thoughts and memories, . . . receiving the obligatory Christmas and Easter visits.

    Are those kids deserving of all the remaining money?

    I have no trouble believing that such an elderly person (who are many in our society), after months or years in a facility, might decide to leave the estate to the nursing home or any number of its workers.

    Yet it seems this is almost 'not allowed', as if any attempt to do so is tantamount to 'proof' that the elderly person must have had dementia.
    It is my opinion that the ones who so callously dump their elderly and then brazenly expect financial rewards are the ones who ought to have their heads examined, . . . but that's me.

    So the question is, -- What, if anything, can an elderly person do who wishes to bequeath what remains to a more deserving soul, even if that soul is pretty much a stranger?

    1. You're right that gifts to a caregiver are often looked upon with suspicion. That's because the caregiver is in a unique position of having a great deal of control over someone in their care. There are multiple examples of unscrupulous caregivers influencing, persuading, or even bullying people into changing their wills. However, I agree wih you that there are thousands of others who are simply giving the care they are supposed to give, without in any way abusing their situations.

      There are things that an elderly person can do to strengthen the will and to support it.

      The elderly person can find and contact a lawyer without the help of the person who they want to give the estate to. This diminishes the idea that the beneficiary took the elderly person to "his" or "her" lawyer or was the one who suggested the change to the will.

      The elderly person should be completely frank with the lawyer drawing the will about the reasons for making this person a beneficiary. If the kids haven't stayed in touch, say so. Explain how that makes you feel. The lawyer will record all of this information and if needed, this record will explain to a judge why you did what you did.

      An elderly person can also arrange to see his or her doctor on the day of signing the will, or as close to that day as possible. The elderly person should explain (or have the lawyer send a letter to the doctor) that they are there to get some back-up about their mental capacity to deal with legal documents. The doctor will then supply a note or report supporting the fact that you knew what you were doing.

      The key to it is to find a lawyer with a great deal of experience in wills law who will help you come up with ideas to support your will.


    2. Thank you so much for beautifully outlining what an elderly person must do, and the trying and quite likely difficult steps that must be taken, if that person sincerely wishes to bestow all or some of an estate on those who provided sincere care when it was needed most, rather than on those who are not always adept at disguising their impatience while waiting for the day when they can finally collect a desired inheritance.

      Alas, for so many it will always be too late, -- but for those now young enough to read these pages, . . . something to think about.

    3. Hi Loren,
      You're welcome. I'm familiar with those people that are often called "waiters" because they assume that their inheritance will finance their lifestyle, and they make no attempt to hide it.


  2. And then there's the cases where the Doctor and the caregiver are in cahoots. It's a no-win scenario. Money-grubbing relatives will complain no matter what. It's unavoidable. Even when the deceased leaves an explicit declaration as to WHY they are ignoring their blood relatives in their will. All one can do is cover as many issues of potential discontent and hope that it silences the blood relatives who feel they have been done wrong.

    1. You are right about that. I recently talked to a disappointed beneficiary who tried to tell me that the judge, the lawyer, the other party's lawyer, the realtor, the appraiser, the legal assistant, and a dozen other people were all in cahoots together - and all to stop little old her from getting an inheritance.



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