Many of our Los Angeles readers have at least one parent who may be experiencing some serious health issues as they get older. Often, this can include mental conditions such as dementia, which can make it very difficult for loved ones to provide ongoing care. In these situations, family members typically choose to place a loved one in a residential care facility or hire a caretaker.
But because our loved ones may be in such a vulnerable position as their mental facilities decline, they can be easily manipulated by the very people hired to care for them. In many cases, they are persuaded or tricked into changing a will or inheritance to include the caretaker. While this certainly does not happen to everyone in this situation, it is a very real risk that our readers should be aware of.
Many of our parents have (or should have) an estate plan that defines their wishes for how their assets should be divided in the event of their death. In some cases, these documents are completed long before they start dealing with serious mental or physical conditions, when they have a strong mental capacity and have made their decisions purposefully and thoughtfully.
However, if and when their mental capacity deteriorates, they can start forgetting things and people. This is often a time that a scheming caretaker could step in. A patient may be comfortable with a caretaker they see regularly and start to rely on that person to make certain decisions for them. A caretaker could easily persuade a vulnerable patient to adjust his or her estate plan, especially if a person does not remember having a will or cannot remember the people who are named in a will.
In general, this is unethical and illegal. Many professional care companies have policies that prohibit workers from being named as a beneficiary in a patient’s will. Further, exploiting a disabled or elderly person for personal and financial gain can be punishable by legal action. But family members should also take note that they can protect a parent’s assets by speaking with an attorney as soon as a suspicious change to an estate plan is made. Whether the situation can be dealt with while a parent is still alive or if it must be challenged when executing an estate plan, it can be crucial to have legal support during this difficult process.
Source: My San Antonio, “Paid Caretaker should not be receiving inheritance,” Paul Premack, March 3, 2014