Drafting a will is an important step towards ensuring that a person's final wishes can be accurately carried out. However, there have been recent cases of elderly testators succumbing to the undue influence of caregivers or other people close to them, and altering their wills in ways that they would not ordinarily want to. In order to better protect the interests of people drafting wills and other documents to memorialize their last wishes, Illinois has passed a new law that alters the way that courts treat gifts to caregivers if someone contests the validity of the document.
Presumptively Void Transfers
In the event that someone legally challenges a bequest to a caregiver of more than $20,000, the court will apply a “rebuttable presumption” that the transfer is void. A void transfer would not go through and would instead be redistributed under other provisions of estate law. However, not all large gifts to caregivers would be void under the law. The law instructs the court to use a rebuttable presumption, which means that the caregiver is allowed to argue that the transfer was valid and should go through normally.
What the presumption does, essentially, is forces the caregiver to fight an uphill battle if he or she wants to claim the money. The caregiver would need to show by “clear and convincing evidence,” a higher than normal standard, “that the transfer was not the product of fraud, duress, or undue influence.” The caregiver also has another option to demonstrate the validity of the will. If the caregiver can show that the gift's size is no greater than it would have been before he or she became the caregiver, then he or she can overcome the presumption.
When the Law Applies
The law contains a variety of cutouts and definitions that make it more clear when the law does or does not apply. For instance, the law provides an exception for family members who act as caregivers. They will not have to face the presumption of voidness, though they do still need to deal with ordinary issues of fraud and duress. The law also sets out a definition of the types of documents that the rule applies to, which the law refers to as transfer instruments. According to the law, a transfer instrument is a document designed to cause a transfer of assets on or after the date of the transferor's death. These instruments can be wills, trusts, or contracts, among a variety of other types of legal documents.
If you believe that a family member's will was improperly tampered with by a caregiver, seek the help of a dedicated Schaumburg, Illinois probate attorney today. Our firm can help you learn about the options you have to make sure that your family member's final wishes are carried out properly. We assist clients in Inverness, Palatine, Arlington Heights, and throughout the Chicagoland suburbs.
About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.