Can I Help My Mother Write Her Will?
It can be incredibly difficult to watch your parents getting older, and it can be nerve wracking when you are watching them suffer increasing health issues knowing that they have no plans in place for their estate or long-term care. Admittedly, your parents’ finances are probably the last thing that you want to be thinking about, but it can be hard not to when you know the burden that could fall on you if they fail to take any action. However, it’s important to understand your role as overstepping in the will-making department could easily end up with you in hot water and no closer to a clear financial outcome for your parents.
The information in this article is intended to be general. However, estate planning can be very complex, and answering a question accurately requires full consideration of all relevant factors. If you would like personalized feedback from a wills and estates attorney based on the facts and circumstances of your specific case, contact the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray to schedule a consultation today.
Legal Issues in Helping Your Parent Prepare a Will
Essentially, the biggest hurdle in helping your mother or parent prepare a will is that the more involved you are in the process, the less reliable the will becomes. All wills, even those prepared by attorneys, must go through the probate process. Part of probate involves making a determination as to whether the will is valid. Any family members or beneficiaries can raise challenges to the will if they believe it does not represent their loved ones’ actual wishes and was obtained through undue influence. In assessing an undue influence claim, the court will look at how much access you had to your parent and how involved you were in procuring the will for them. If you hired the attorney, arranged the meeting, drove them to it, or had any other peripheral or direct action in bringing this will into being, it can weigh in favor of undue influence which would render the will invalid. If this were to occur then the probate court would not rely on the will in making their determination as to how to distribute the assets, and would instead adhere to the state’s intestate succession statutes. The irony of this situation of course is that your best efforts to support your parent in making a will can be what defeats the will in court. For this reason, it is best to be as hands-off as possible. You can encourage your parents to contact a lawyer, but beyond that, you do risk muddying the waters, particularly if you are your parent’s caretaker. If your parent lives an active life and has plenty of other contacts and access to the world and you are not responsible for their care then it is far less risky for you to offer some basic help in procuring a will, such as giving them a ride to their lawyer’s office, but it is still best to pay attention to the boundary that is their own free will. Ultimately, it is their choice whether to create an estate plan, and if they choose not to, they cannot be compelled to make one, even if it seems like a perfectly logical thing to do. On the other hand, if you believe your parent may be the victim of undue influence if you do not take action to secure them a will that represents their genuine interests, then it is important to contact a lawyer to get a sense of your best legal options for protecting them.
Schedule a Consultation with Larry E. Bray
If you or a parent need help creating a comprehensive estate plan or require assistance with an estate planning matter, the Law Offices of Larry E. Bray can help. Larry E. Bray has over 35 years of experience practicing estate law in the West Palm Beach area. Contact West Palm Beach estate planning lawyer Larry E. Bray today and schedule a free consultation to find out how he can help you.