One of the biggest fears family members have surrounding their aging elders is that of a new “friend” convincing them to get a new will or trust – especially after their spouse is gone. A new caregiver, new friend, or recent love interest sadly poses the risk of a change in a loved one's will. How can you be sure your loved one is not pressured into changing will beneficiaries? If they have changed their will recently, how can you keep them from making a pressured decision?
As people age, many times their mental abilities age as well. They may not have the wisdom and discernment in making decision that they once had, and they may be more willing to trust strangers. Sadly, some people take advantage of such elderly people, causing them to sign over estates and benefits to people they hardly know. As a loved one, you want to do all you can to make sure your family member isn't pressured into changing their will. That's where a conservatorship can come into play.
Dictionary.com defines conservatorship as “a circumstance in which the court declares an individual unable to take care of legal matters and appoints another individual, known as a conservator, to do so.” If your loved one is unable to make sound decisions, taking control of their will or appointing a trustworthy person to do so prevents scam and fraud.
Many courts do all they can to keep the wills true to the original intentions of the estate-holder. If you believe your loved one has been pressured into changing their will, gathering a few items of evidence will help you present your case before a judge.
Witnesses. Find people who have interacted with your loved one that can testify of their state of mind. Nurses, doctors, friends, bank tellers, salon staffers, or whoever interacts with your family member on a regular basis. Have them testify of the elder's state of mind at the time the original will was written.
Medical Records. Perhaps the most convincing of evidences comes from your loved one's medical records. Did doctors notice a decline in mental abilities? Are there notes of a decline in reasoning skills? Were they on any medication whose side effect was decreased mental awareness? Search the elder's medical file at the time of the amended will for any signs of mental instability.
Evidence of Relationship. Another influence on the court's decision in a conservatorship case is the evidence of the relationships between the former beneficiary and the new beneficiary. If the new beneficiary is someone your loved one has known for only a short period of time, judges are more likely to trust the original will that benefits a family member or long-time friend.
You don't have to be stuck with a pressured change in your loved one's will. Make sure that any changes or amendments come from a true desire to change the will and not a pressured idea during a weakened state of mind.
Cautionary Note: Think long and hard before seeking a conservatorship for a loved one. A conservatorship is a drastic step that should always be a last resort. Courts are hesitant to grant conservatorships absent solid proof of a person's inability to care for themselves. And if your request for a conservatorship is denied, you can count on being removed from the life of the proposed conservatee.
If you would like more information concerning Veterans Benefits, Medi-Cal, or estate planning, visit www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com today. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for VA benefits, elder law, estate planning and related issues. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.