Tuesday, March 27, 2007

When Financial Gratitude Goes Too Far

A column by Pamela Case ori-posted Saturday March 17 2007 reposted 3-27-07

Gratitude is a rare commodity. So when it comes your way, you ought not abuse it. Some people have trouble learning that lesson.

In this day of people living longer and with more health problems, it is wise to consider how to protect not just the elderly person, but their property as well. In these cases there were some common elements: first, the caregivers quickly increased their duties from caring for the person to caring for their finances, sometimes even with the consent of other family members; second, they ingratiated themselves to their charges quickly and isolated them from other friends and family; and third, they found willing accomplices to write new estate plans for evidently incompetent elders. Any of these elements ought to raise red flags for those concerned about undue influence.

written by John Bisnar , March 17, 2007
Undue influence is one issue and a person's rights to leave what they want to whom they want is another. I have seen this issue from all sides.

I'v experienced the elderly person who feels that in their greatest time of need, in their declining years, their children and extended family do not care for them or even see them. The elder parent changes their will to give their assets to those who took care of them, without the thought of a financial gain, during the last periods of their life or they leave their estate to friends or charities. Then when the elder person dies their children rush in expecting a big inheritence. Lawsuits result.

I'v experienced the elder person who is so upset with their relatives that they want to give their estate to anyone but their relatives. They wind up giving their estate to the last persons who cared for them or a charity. So what's wrong with that?

I have also been witness to sitations where adult children who have ignored their elderly parent for decades, show up to take care of their elder parent a few months before they die and demand to know what the estate plan is. They even threaten their elderly parent if the plan isn't changed to inlcude them for the vast majority of the estate.

Remember if an elder is no longer competent, any changes they make to an estate plan are not effective. As long as they are of sound mind, without undue influence, they should be able to leave their possession to anyone or entity that they choose.

When it comes my time, I certainly do not want the State of California rules to dictate who I can give my estate to. I want a rebuttable presumption that if I have changed my estate plan, that it was without undue influence.

We should be free from undue influence and we should be free to leave our estate to whom we please.

John Bisnar

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