As we age, we often rely on others to assist us with maintaining our independence. Unfortunately, many seniors encounter caregivers who take advantage of their vulnerable state to financially benefit themselves. The good news is that, for beneficiaries, caregiver inheritance laws are on your side.
At Gokal Law Group, we have helped beneficiaries bring nefarious caregivers to justice for years through trust and probate litigation. Read our blog to learn what to do when a caregiver has become a beneficiary.
Caregiver Inheritance Laws: When a Caregiver is a Beneficiary
When a caregiver is named a beneficiary of a will or trust, a legal presumption of undue influence or fraud is created. These presumptions can lead to invalidation of a trust or will.
In other words, it is often suspicious, to say the least, and it can be the basis you need to contest the trust or will because it signals that the caregiver may have exploited or otherwise taken advantage of your loved one in their vulnerable state.
“California Probate Code § 21380 considers caregivers ‘prohibited transferees,’ meaning that if they are a beneficiary of the trust or will, the presumption will be that it was a result of fraud or undue influence. This law is in place to protect seniors from financial elder exploitation and make it easier for beneficiaries to file a California inheritance dispute in court.” – Ronald V. Larson, California Trust Litigation Attorney, Gokal Law Group
This provision in the California Probate Code applies to certain categories of people:
- Anyone who drafted the will or trust, transcribed it, or was in a “fiduciary relationship” with the decedent when the will or trust was transcribed.
- Someone who was a care custodian of a dependent adult and who had property transferred to them during the period of their care or within 90 days before or after that period of care.
- Someone who recently entered into a domestic partnership, marriage, or cohabitation with the decedent within 90 days of the execution of the instrument.
Beneficiaries should also know if they pursue litigation and dispute the validity of the trust or will, the onus will then be on the caregiver to prove they did not use fraud or undue influence. In most cases, this standard is nearly impossible to meet.
“The California Supreme Court set a precedent and ruled in 2006 that a will was invalid because a caregiver had the majority of a $450,000 estate transferred to her by way of changes made to a will in the final days of 97-year–old Carmel Bosco’s life.” – Harry Wallace, California Trust Litigation Lawyer, Gokal Law Group
To add to the situation, under California inheritance law, if the caregiver cannot prove by clear and convincing evidence that fraud or undue influence did not occur, the court can order them to pay the costs and expenses of the court proceedings, including attorneys’ fees.
The stakes are high for caregivers, and the odds are almost always in favor of beneficiaries. However, there are some exceptions.
What Are Exceptions Under Caregiver Inheritance Laws?
Under some circumstances, this presumption of wrongdoing may not apply. Exceptions include when the caregiver:
- Was related by blood or marriage to the person who created the trust or will.
- Did not receive payment for caregiving services.
- Was personally acquainted with the person who created the trust or will at least 90 days before they created the instrument.
- Are receiving an inheritance valued at $5,000 or less.
- Was not working within 90 days before or after the trust or will was created.
Premier California Inheritance Litigation Attorneys
If your parent or relative has recently passed away with a will or trust that leaves a significant portion of their estate to their caregiver, caregiver inheritance laws are in place to help. While this is not always a product of undue influence or fraud, it is unfortunately common for caregivers to exploit vulnerable seniors and take advantage of their position. As a beneficiary, you should know that the law is on your side. And so are we.