Perhaps your mother has recently died, and you feel surprised to learn that she left $15,000 to her caregiver. You wonder if the caregiver may have pressured your mother in some way. Or maybe you are drawing up your will, and you would like to leave something to your valued caregiver. Is that all right?
In most cases, yes! It can be perfectly fine to leave money to caregivers in a will, but taking a few important steps can minimize or erase the chances of a will contest on a basis such as undue influence.
Make your wishes known and clear to at least one other person
Ideally, you would tell your lawyer and several other people about your plans. It is the element of surprise that catches many heirs off-guard and leads to jealousies, resentments and will contests. If you would rather not share with your family about your plans, explain why to your lawyer. For instance, you might fear anger from other heirs or be nervous that your other heirs would start to treat the caregiver differently or badly.
You do not necessarily have to tell the caregiver about your plans if that would strain your relationship or make it odd, but let other people know.
Include a statement in the will to explain what you are doing
Write a few lines in your will such as, "In appreciation of the services that Josh Caregiver has provided, I bequeath him $15,000. His help and companionship have been invaluable."
If you are an heir, understand where your loved one may have been coming from
If you are an heir who disagrees with the decision or who feels caught off guard about it, know that your loved one's caregiver probably provided a lot of solace and companionship in these final years. It is likely that the caregiver developed genuine feelings for your loved one as well.
However, if the caregiver tried to isolate your loved one or there were warning signs, then you could explore whether the changes were made freely and if a will challenge would be productive.