You are entitled to leave your money and assets to anyone you choose – provided you do it legally. Many people want to name a beneficiary in their will who is not a relative. A will is a legal document that – if drawn and executed according to your state’s probate laws – ensures that your designated heirs will receive their inheritance. When leaving money to a non-family caregiver – someone who has taken care of you and you have relied on for support and assistance – it’s important that consult an experienced estate planning attorney so that your wishes are followed.
Unfortunately, financial elder abuse is a serious problem in the United States. Fraud against seniors is a growing problem – and in many instances, caregivers have taken advantage of their elderly charges to manipulate them for financial gain. To address the issue, Illinois put in place laws to protect the elderly from financial abuse by their caregiver.
The Illinois Probate Act of 1975 addresses non-related caregivers who are named in a will or trust. Under the law, any property transfer greater than $20,000 left to a non-related caregiver is presumed to be fraudulent if the will or trust is challenged.
It is generous and thoughtful to leave money to a caretaker who has become family to you. There are actions you can take to be sure your wishes are carried out and the caregiver receives their inheritance.
1. Inform Your Family
Let your family know of your intention to leave a financial gift to your caregiver, and why you have made that decision. Many families don’t live near each other, and aren’t aware of how much a caretaker means to their parent or grandparent. If your family does not know about your decision until after your death, they may be suspicious about the caretaker’s influence on you.
2. Update Your Attorney
An experienced estate planning and elder law attorney will advise you to inform your family of your plans. Tell your attorney that you have informed your family about your plans to leave money to your caregiver, and advise you on next steps based on that conversation.
3. Document That You Are Of Sound Mind
If your family objects to your plan to leave money to your caregiver, or if you feel they will object and challenger your will, ask your estate planning attorney to help you document that you are of sound mind and not under the influence of the caregiver.
It is generous and thoughtful to leave a financial gift to a non-family caregiver who was a source of help and comfort to you. Once you’ve made the decision, you can protect your caregiver from future stress and expense by consulting an experienced estate planning attorney to guide you in establishing that you were not a victim of senior fraud.
An experienced Illinois estate planning attorney can explain the best ways to provide for your caregiver in your will, and applicable laws and recommendations. Contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at (630) 382-8073.