America relies on more than 50 million people a year to care for our chronically ill, disabled, or aged loved ones. Many times, the bond between patient and caregiver is as close as that between family members. After all, patients often spend more time with their caregivers than they do with family members. More and more, people are designating unrelated caregivers as heirs.
The law is very clear on the legal rights of family members in regard to inheritance. But it is not as clear for those who are unrelated to you, the testator. That can pose problems if you want to leave a gift or inheritance to your unrelated caregiver. If a family member contests the will, you need to ensure that your money and assets are distributed as you requested.
But not to worry! There are certain steps you can take to ensure your wishes are executed properly. First and foremost, it is imperative that you have a will. This is the crucial legal document that ensures your estate will be divided up exactly as you see fit. You can easily create your will with LegalZoom.
Next, you should make your wishes clear to another person. It helps to have a witness to your will. Your wishes should be known to your family before you pass away. If you are not comfortable sharing this information, then make sure the rationale or the reason for your gift to your unrelated caregiver is clearly stated in the will. This will help protect your wish from challenges later.
Write a clear statement in the will that the bequest is being made in recognition of the special care given to you by the caregiver. The will should reflect the reason for the gift, and it should make it clear that it isn't a mistake. For example, "In recognition and appreciation for the services that Suzy Caregiver has performed, I bequeath $10,000 to her because she has been a tremendous caregiver over many years." That will protect against the challenge of undue influence, or an outside claim that "Suzy Caregiver was just after grandpa's money."
In addition to your will, some states will allow you to write a separate signed and dated letter detailing your wishes. The accompanying letter can be binding if it is mentioned in the will.
If you're one of the many who wish to show appreciation to a dedicated caregiver by including him or her in your will, use the tips above to be sure your wishes are clear and uncontestable.