Gifts to Caregivers in California

Be cautious when leaving a gift to a caregiver in California.

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If you live in California and want to leave a substantial gift to any nonrelative who has recently helped you with personal or health care, see a lawyer first. You can leave such a gift—but first you may need to have a lawyer sign a statement, verifying that you’re acting freely and aren’t being unduly influenced.

If you don’t, the gift could be void—meaning the intended recipient won’t get it. California has a law (Cal. Prob. Code §§ 21380–21392) aimed at preventing caregivers from taking advantage of the people who depend on them. However, that law could easily invalidate perfectly reasonable gifts that you really want to make. For example, a gift to a new neighbor who brings meals and helps you pay bills could be voided, as could a gift to a paid live-in caregiver who has become a good friend.

These laws apply only to gifts greater than $5,000 in California (or less if your entire estate will be worth less than $150,000). Most gifts to family members won’t be affected, but gifts to loved ones who are not legally related, like stepchildren or unmarried partners, could be voided if your will is challenged.

If you think these laws could void gifts that you want to make, see a lawyer who handles estate planning, family law or elder care matters for help.

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