Caregivers and the people for whom they care often have very close contact. This closeness may create a desire in that patient to include a caregiver in his/her estate plan. Whether the caregiver is a relative or a non-relative, this objective can be challenging sometimes, and requires careful estate planning to ensure that the goals are reached.
For many people, they may spend more time with their caregivers than with all of their children and grandchildren combined. Naturally, this closeness of proximity can lead to personal closeness sometimes. In those situations, patient may come to view a caregiver as an extension of his/her family and wanted to include a distribution to the caregiver in his/her estate plan.
If that caregiver is a non-relative, you may decide you want to include him/her in your plan. If that caregiver is a relative, such as a child or a grandchild, your plan may already include that relative, but you might decide you want to honor your relationship with that relative by giving him/her a larger portion of your wealth than your other children/grandchildren.
In this, as with any non-traditional estate plan objective, there are two things that are key: communication and careful planning. In many families, it may be helpful to sit down with all of your immediate family and explain your planning objectives and why they are what they are. Remind your family of all the time and effort your caregiver has expended and selflessness he/she has shown, and explain why it means so much to you to honor that in your plan. The laws in some states have been changed to make estate plan contents much easier for the challenger to win where the beneficiary in dispute is a caregiver. (Illinois, for example, made changes to its laws in 2015 that make it very easy for a relative to win a contest against a caregiver if the distribution the caregiver was to receive amounted to more than $20,000.)
Planning is also vital. If you are planning to create an uneven distribution among relatives (such as favoring a caregiver child/grandchild over other children/grandchildren,) or making a distribution to a non-relative caregiver, there may be ways to increase your odds of accomplishing your goals successfully. In some states, it may help you to use a living trust in your estate plan. In most places, living trusts generally offer more privacy than traditional wills and are generally harder to contest successfully than wills. If you anticipate a challenge (even after communicating with your loved ones,) this tool may be helpful to achieving your goals.
In other states, though, other techniques may be preferable. As noted above, some states (like Illinois in 2015) have altered their laws to make it somewhat difficult for a patient's plan to reward a caregiver to survive a plan contest. In states like that, your estate planning attorney may have important advice on how to achieve your desires. You may be able to reduce the odds of a successful challenge by creating written documentation that establishes proof that you were competent and that your plan represents your genuine desires, free of any duress, fraud or undue influence. Alternately, your attorney may be able to suggest other options, such as providing a gift to your caregiver during your lifetime, which would avoid the pitfalls of these new laws (as they generally apply only to death transfers…
In the end, this type of plan requires many of the same things that most any plan does: clear communication, careful planning and working with the right experienced estate planning attorney.