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Including a caregiver in estate planning efforts

Not every Philadelphia resident has close ties to his or her family. In many cases, events have transpired over the years that led to permanent estrangement, or a severing of the familial bond. In such cases, an individual may wish to center his or her estate planning around a caregiver. This is especially true for older people, who may be very grateful for the care and concern shown to them by an individual who was either hired to provide care or just assumed a caregiving role based on an acquaintance or friendship.

In such cases, it is imperative to take precautionary steps to ensure that the chosen heir is able to receive his or her inheritance. There are laws in place to protect people against fraud or coercion in these matters, and overcoming those protections can be a challenge. These safeguards are a positive thing, for the most part, but they do not encompass every set of circumstances.

One way to strengthen an estate plan that excludes family members is to work with an estate planning attorney to draft a clear will that outlines one's wishes. The attorney can also include a separate document in which he or she asserts that the individual is competent to make those decisions and was fully informed of his or her rights prior to taking this step. It can be helpful to have one's physician include a similar document, one that will attest to the mental capacities of the individual at the time the decision is made.

Having these precautionary measures in place can help protect the caregiver from a legal challenge issued by surviving family members. If a family member, even one who has long been estranged, challenges the estate planning documents in court, the caregiver will be tasked with defending against any claims that the inheritance was made due to fraud, coercion or pressure. This  estate planning approach may be unusual, but it is one that is taken by many Philadelphia residents.

Source:, "Gifts to Caregivers", Michael J. Fedalen, Jan. 28, 2016

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