New Market, MD asked in Elder Law and Estate Planning for Maryland

Q: My father (94) lives with a lady. She has taken care of him (like a nurse) and he has taken financial care of her.

His will states that his estate (when he dies), should be used to take care of her. She says she will save her money to give to her daughter while the real grandchildren may get nothing. Will I legally be responsible for paying anything for her? Finances are in my dads name, not commingled? She has been good to my father but we feel it’s been an even trade.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: If your father was mentally competent when he drafted and signed his will, then his will is valid and will be upheld. if he was not competent, or you can prove this female companion exercised "undue influence" and coerced in some way the terms of the will that were favorable to her, meaning your father was unable to exercise his own free will in the matter because he was under her overbearing control, then you might contest the will. Alternatively, if your father is now mentally incompetent, and he has not granted this female companion his power of attorney (or even if he has), you might petition the court to be appointed guardian of his person and property and remove her from the residence and take over your father's care. You may not be able to change his will, but you could review all his assets and confirm that he has not added this companion to all his bank accounts and other financial accounts as either a joint owner on the accounts or as a "pay on death" beneficiary. If he has done so (or if she has done so using a power of attorney he granted to her), then you can reverse those actions once named as his guardian, but as a joint owner, she could empty the accounts. Further, if she is a joint owner or a named beneficiary on the accounts, she will be the sole owner of those assets upon your father's death and they will not be included in his estate or distributed according to his will--they will simply be hers. If you believe she is manipulating your father to steal all of his property and money, then she may be subject to criminal prosecution. Your facts do not suggest that you suspect her of this, but you are obviously concerned that she has taken over and will end up owning or inheriting everything your father owns. This is a situation you need to address first by talking with your father--and if he is not competent, take what action you can while you still can to remedy the situation.

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