California Probate Code Section 21350, also known as the Care Custodian Statute, presumptively invalidates testamentary gifts (gifts left in a will or a trust or even by beneficiary designation) made by an elder to individuals who provided health and social services to the elder. Health and Social services is very broad and can include daily assistance to an elderly person. For purposes of the Care Custodian Statute, “elder” is defined as any individual over the age of sixty-four whose physical and/or mental abilities have diminished as a result of age.
The purpose of the Care Custodian Statute is to protect elderly individuals from predatory people, who would otherwise abuse the reliant, trusting nature of the care custodian relationship to manipulate the elder into giving the care custodian a portion, if not all, of the elder’s estate.
While it is exceedingly important to protect elderly individuals from opportunistic care custodians, not all gifts made by elders to care custodians are suspect or inappropriate. Indeed, it is common for an elderly individual to desire to provide for the individual(s) who assisted the elder as he or she aged and required additional support. It is also common that the persons named in an elderly person’s will or trust years ago are those exact persons who later do want to care for the elderly person. In order to protect the elder, the Code requires that gifts made to these people be independently reviewed by an attorney to ensure the elder knowingly made such gift happily and voluntarily. Persons who are exempt from such review include the elder’s spouse, registered domestic partner, or persons related to the elder by blood.
Additional exceptions are available under the California Probate Code for testamentary gifts from an elder to a care custodian; however, these exceptions are very fact specific and should be discussed with an attorney.
An independent review by separate counsel is not a lengthy or difficult process, but is quite necesssary to ensure that the gift is properly made.
If you are interested in obtaining information regarding the Care Custodian Statute or would like to discuss the process of independent review, please feel free to contact us.