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Avoiding probate litigation over gifts to caregivers

2/4/2016 | Kaplin Stewart Blog

For many in Pennsylvania, close ties to family members have long been severed. This occurs for a number of reasons, but the end result is often a permanent cessation of all contact. In such cases, an individual may wish to leave his or her estate to a caregiver or close friend. In doing so, there are a number of considerations that must be taken to protect the intended heir from lengthy and stressful probate litigation.

There are laws in place to protect older people from fraud and coercion when it comes to their estate plans. These laws are important, as many elderly or incapacitated people are subject to criminal acts aimed at stealing their assets. However, those same laws can make it difficult to bypass one’s surviving family members in favor of a caregiver.

The best way to ensure that one’s assets are distributed according to his or her wishes is to draft a clearly and carefully worded will. It can also be helpful to work with an estate planning attorney who is willing to include a statement asserting that the individual was fully informed of his or her rights, and that the decision to leave an inheritance to a caregiver was made willingly and without undue influence. A similar statement can be obtained from one’s physician, noting that the person was in good mental health at the time the decision was made.

Having these safeguards in place can help one’s chosen heir fend off any legal challenges that may arise. Estranged family members have a way of surfacing once a death takes place, and probate litigation often follows. By creating a clear estate planning package, Pennsylvania relatives can make sure that their hard-earned assets go to the individual that they choose, rather than family members who no longer function in a familial role.

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