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DuPage County estate planning attorneysHome health aides, private duty nurses, and other paid caregivers can make a tremendous impact on the lives of the elderly or disabled individuals in their care. From helping with medical needs to transporting patients to and from doctors’ appointments to simply providing companionship, these caregivers are a valuable source of support. For many people, these caregivers are more like family members than hired help. If you have a special, non-related caregiver who goes above and beyond to make your life better, you may be considering leaving him or her an inheritance. Special laws dictate rules regarding inheritance to non-related caregivers in Illinois, so it is important to discuss your inheritance plans with an estate planning attorney to make sure your wishes will be followed.

Illinois Law Regarding Inheritance Left to Non-Related Caregivers

Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is a major problem in Illinois and throughout the United States. Some caregivers will use deceit or psychological manipulation to influence an elderly or disabled person into changing their estate plans so the plans benefit the caregiver. Because of the prevalence of elder financial abuse, Illinois lawmakers recently amended the Illinois Probate Act of 1975 to include special rules regarding inheritances left to non-relative caregivers. According to the law, a property transfer of more than $20,000 is automatically presumed to be fraudulent during any challenges to a will or trust. This means that if you leave your caregiver property valued at more than $20,000 and someone disputes the validity of your will or trust in court, it is possible that your caregiver will not receive this inheritance.

What to Do If You Wish to Leave a Large Inheritance to a Non-Family Caregiver

You worked hard to accumulate the assets you own and you deserve to choose who those assets are passed down to upon your death. If you have decided that you would like to include your caregiver in your estate plans, speak to a lawyer. Your attorney will be able to help you transfer your property to the caregiver in a way that does not cause unnecessary legal problems in the future. Once you have made your estate plans, it may be a good idea to share these plans with your family. It is less likely that your plans will be contested if your surviving loved ones are not surprised by the contents of your will or other estate planning documents upon your death.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysThe very idea of estate planning can be frightening for many people, as it is not easy to confront the realization that nobody lives forever. Drafting an estate plan that includes a will, trusts, and other documents requires you to look past the end of your own life. While the difficulties associated with estate planning are understandable, it is critical to have an estate plan. If you were to die without a will or other estate plans, most of your property would probably be subject to the intestate succession laws of Illinois.

What Does “Intestate” Mean?

A particular asset is deemed to be “intestate” if there is no direction specified for how the asset will be disposed of following the owner’s death. Jointly owned property is not usually intestate because the ownership of the joint property will generally transfer to the other owner or owners. Likewise, an investment account that has named beneficiaries or a transfer-on-death clause is not an intestate asset. The named beneficiaries will receive the funds in that account when you die. However, if you are the sole owner of an asset and you have not established legally enforceable instructions on handling the asset upon your death, the asset will be treated as intestate property.

Intestate Succession Laws

The laws governing intestate succession in Illinois are contained in the Illinois Probate Act. Intestate property allocation will depend on your specific circumstances, including your surviving spouse, any children, and other family members. Intestate succession can become extremely complicated, however, as the law provides for a wide variety of possible situations.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyAs you get older, your needs are going to change. Many people require more medical and personal care in their later years than they did when they were younger. If this happens to you, your loved ones and family members will probably be on board with helping as much as possible, but they might not be able or equipped to provide the level of care that you need. In such a situation, you might need to rely on an independent caregiver—someone that you are not related to or do not really know in any other capacity. While a caregiver might be a stranger at first, it is possible that you will become closer with him or her over time. Depending on the circumstances, your caregiver might do so much to help you that you even think about adding him or her as an heir in your will.

What the Law Says

Several years ago, lawmakers in Illinois updated the Illinois Probate Act of 1975 (755 ILC 5) to address inheritances left to non-related caregivers. The 2015 amendment addressed situations in which an estate planning instrument, including a will or trust, left more than $20,000 to a caregiver who was not related to the decedent. Under the amended law, a transfer of property greater than $20,000 is presumed to be fraudulent in the event that the transfer is subject to a challenge. The presumption of fraud will invalidate any instrument making the transfer.

The law, as it now stands, might seem harsh, but it was passed with good intentions. A caregiver often has virtually unrestricted access to a person whose health, age, or mental capacity might leave him or her especially vulnerable. A dishonest caregiver could fairly easily exercise undue influence over the person and convince him or her to write a new will or to add provisions that will benefit the caregiver. Family members and other would-be beneficiaries might not even know about the changes until after the person dies.

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