The MLO Minute: “Estate Planning and Estate Administration in Caregiver Situations” —
By Dennis McAndrews, Esq. and Kelly Hayes, Esq. —
The statistics regarding caregiving in the United States are compelling: Each year, more than 16 million Americans provide over 17 billion hours of unpaid care for family and friends with dementia. Over half of all dementia family caregivers provide care for four or more years. The number of people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s is projected to more than double to 14,000,000 by 2060. And since the year 2000, the number of Americans aged 50 or older who live alone has nearly doubled to approximately 26 million individuals, many (if not most) of whom will someday need caregiving services.
Some of the most challenging estate planning and estate administration matters involve families in which a child or other family member is (or has been) a primary caregiver, with other family members providing much less support, often for completely valid reasons, such as distance or other family/financial obligations. Where one child or other family member provides (or has provided) the bulk of caregiving for one or more parents, the recipient of the caregiving services may consider providing an additional inheritance to the caregiver. In some cases, the entire family is part of that discussion and is fully on board with this plan. Of course, those are the easy cases to address. But in other situations, this arrangement is far more private, again often for understandable reasons. But this situation presents its own significant considerations. It is important for everyone involved to recognize that the individual being cared for is the estate planning client. Provided that said individual has testamentary capacity and is not subject to any undue influence in the arrangement, we can often assist with updating these estate plans. However, we must carefully document our independent, professional conclusions with respect to these matters to avoid unnecessary challenges to the will in the estate administration process. Often times, this may include documenting attorney/client meetings by video.
Our estate planning and estate administration attorneys have extensive experience in addressing these circumstances and in preparing estate planning documents that meet the needs and desires of our clients while considering the often-extraordinary efforts of children or family members who provide caregiving services. We understand the dynamics of these situations, know the questions to ask, appreciate the interests of all concerned, and offer a variety of solutions which can seek to protect the family dynamic and cohesiveness to the maximum extent possible, while addressing other important issues such as death taxes.
We look forward to assisting your family in any type of estate planning or estate administration matter, including those in which a significant caregiving function is involved.