As your parents age you may have taken on the role of their caretaker. While you have good intentions as a caretaker, some family members may not think so if they are unhappy with their inheritance. They may accuse you of exerting “undue influence,” over your parent’s estate plan. There are steps you can take to avoid these types of accusations and preserve family harmony.
Meeting with an attorney
Your parent’s role in estate planning should be as independent as possible. They should be the one to call an estate planning attorney, and they should attend the first appointment with the attorney without any heirs present. Sometimes you may need to help them select the attorney but their first meeting with the attorney should always be alone.
By meeting with the attorney alone, the attorney can ensure that your parents know why they are there and that they are there of their own free will. It also gives your parents the ability to freely discuss their estate plan wishes with their attorney.
If your parent is ill, but still of sound mind, it is important that their attorney is made aware of your parent’s health condition. This way the attorney can note your parent’s responses to ensure your parent is of sound mind. Your parent can also include a letter from their doctor documenting their competency.
Letter of intent
If your parents decide to give you a larger inheritance than other heirs, they may want to include a “letter of intent” in their estate plan. This letter, written by your parents, can explain why they left you a larger inheritance than their other heirs.
Keep a written record
If you are your parent’s caretaker, keep written records of your activities with your parents, such as making appointments, running errands and taking them to leisure activities. This can serve as proof you were not isolating your parents. You should also make sure all your parent’s heirs know where your parent’s will is kept so no one can accuse you of hiding it.
Taking care of your aging parents can be a labor of love, but some may not always see it that way. By honoring your parent’s wishes and keeping the lines of communication open, you can help ensure their estate plan won’t be challenged based on “undue influence.”