The federal government has recently enacted new laws designed to protect taxpayers in the United States from forms of tax fraud that could ultimately lead to tax increases for all citizens.  While these changes have helped reduce the amount of tax-related identity theft and fraud, one issue that continues to plague older Americans is fraud that specifically targets those who are 60 or older. Unfortunately, in an effort to protect those who may be affected by age related scams, some may inadvertently accuse an innocent person of coercing or manipulating an older American. One of the primary reasons disputes between heirs are initiated is a belief that the beneficiary has coerced or exercised undue influence over an elderly parent or relative who was in their care. Protecting your heirs from coercion accusations helps you to secure your legacy by ensuring the person you named inherits the property or assets that you want them to have.

Be Open

An heir who was unaware of your plans regarding your estate or one who believed that you were planning to divide your estate in a different manner is more likely to greet your decisions with suspicions if he or she favors another beneficiary. Last-minute changes to a will or deathbed transfers are often a sign of coercion or a person with diminished mental capacity being taken advantage of.  Being open about your estate plan with all of your beneficiaries reduces

confusion and unpleasant surprises that may cause one heir to question the inheritance of another heir.  

Know the Law

As you age, it is possible that one of your children, relatives, or close friends will take on the role of your caretaker, helping you with daily functions and assisting you with personal or professional tasks. Even though you may feel that it is obvious that your caretaker always acts in your best interest, others may believe that your caretaker has too much influence over you. The position of caretaker is one of great responsibility and often the person being cared for is in a vulnerable position. California law addresses the dangers faced by older Americans and takes steps to protect them from becoming victims of undue influence. Being aware of statutes can help you avoid making any decisions or choices that inadvertently give the impression that you were coerced in some way.

Consult an Attorney

Those who use do-it-yourself estate planning tools may place their heirs at additional risk.  Having an heir assist you with drafting an estate plan that names him or her as executor and benefits that person can create a false impression that he or she influenced the choices outlined.  Consulting an estate planning lawyer ensures that your will reflects current laws and protects your heirs from accusations of impropriety. The attorneys at MMZ Law are here to work with you to create an estate plan that allows you to safely transfer property to your heirs without conflict. Contact us today and schedule an appointment at our Claremont, California office so that we can begin providing you with the legal advice you need.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.