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What to know if you want to leave something to your caregiver

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2024 | Estate Planning

Increasingly, older people choose to remain in their homes rather than go to a retirement community or move in with their adult children. In-home caregivers are often crucial to helping seniors maintain their independence. 

Caregivers can help with everything from getting dressed to cooking to running errands and more. They can also provide company and help people stay mentally and physically engaged.

If you have a caregiver to whom you’ve become close, you may want to leave them something in your estate plan. However, you’re concerned that your family or the probate court could question the validity of that inheritance.

The rebuttable presumption under California law

Caregivers are among those most commonly accused of exerting undue influence on seniors to include them in their will or even using fraudulent means to change their estate plan documents to give them more assets and/or authority. That’s why California law has a “rebuttable presumption” that a “donative transfer…is presumed to be the product of fraud or undue influence…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.”

A rebuttable presumption means the caregiver has the responsibility of proving that they didn’t get an inheritance through deceit or unlawful methods if their inheritance is challenged. You don’t want that for them – or for your estate to be the source of conflict after you’re gone. How can you leave your caregiver something and prevent suspicions and conflicts?

Preventing family challenges

Communication is the best place to start. Let your children and other heirs know that you’re including your caregiver in your will and why. You may need to remind them that this person has helped the entire family because you haven’t had to rely on them as much as you otherwise would have. It’s also critical that your family knows you’re making this decision on your own with no pressure and that you’re fully aware of what you’re doing.

You might also want to consider other options like gifting your caregiver assets while you’re still around. It’s important to document these gifts so no one accuses your caregiver of stealing. Just don’t promise that they’ll get something when you’re gone if it’s not in your estate plan or you haven’t named them as the beneficiary of an account. You can also minimize the chances of the inheritances you leave or any of your wishes being questioned by having experienced estate planning guidance.