Increasingly, Americans are choosing to “age in place,” even if it means living alone. In-home caregivers who visit every day and handle chores, help with personal care and provide companionship are often necessary to avoiding assisted living. These caregivers can become like family – especially when someone’s family lives far away.
If you’ve become close to your in-home caregiver, you may want to include them in your estate plan. However, you may be concerned that your children and other family will think you’ve given them too much and assume you were the victim of undue influence or fraud.
Make sure it’s clear that you’re the one making the decisions
You can reduce the risk of your family contesting your estate plan with a little planning and communication. Let’s look at a few examples.
First, you may choose to gift your caregiver some of your assets. Just be careful that you’re not giving so much at once that gift taxes kick in. It’s also wise to list those gifts so that no one goes looking for them later or accuses your caregiver of stealing.
If you’re including your caregiver in your will or living trust, be sure no one can challenge your mental capacity. If you have estate planning legal guidance, that shouldn’t be a problem, but you may want to get a doctor’s attestation to be safe.
Communication is important
Talk to your family about what you’re leaving your caregiver. Unless you’re leaving them the bulk of your estate while your adult children are struggling financially, they really shouldn’t have a problem with it.
You can share with them how much this person has done for you (and lightened their caregiving responsibilities). If you believe talking with your kids will do more harm than good, at least include a letter explaining your decisions with your estate plan.
One last note: Don’t just tell your caregiver they can have various items when you’re gone or make vague promises like “You’ll be taken care of.” You need to codify these things in your estate plan. Don’t mislead them into thinking you’re giving them more than you are.
As noted, if you have sound estate planning guidance, you can do as you choose with your estate and still help prevent anger and confusion after you’re gone that may be directed at your caregiver. That’s not what you want for anyone.