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Gifts to caregivers: the case of an heiress and her nurse

There is no doubt that caregivers play a unique and often crucial role in vulnerable people’s lives. When someone is struggling with an illness, old age or some other issue, the services of the person who helps with the accomplishment of daily tasks can be invaluable.

Dependence on a caregiver, however, also carries with it the risk of abuse or undue influence – or at least the appearance of undue influence. As we noted in our October 7 post, this can lead to disputes between a caregiver and someone’s family.

In that earlier post, we discussed a case in which an heiress made generous gifts to a care provider. In today’s post, we will update you on the estate litigation that resulted after a second will surfaced.

The care provider was a nurse who worked for the reclusive heiress for two decades until the heiress died at age 104. The heiress had no close family of her own and the nurse was with her night after night for 20 years.

The nurse is now embroiled in litigation with the heiress’s estate over how much the nurse should receive from it. The nurse contends that the heiress made promises to provide for her when making a will.

The estate has countered with the contention that the nurse exerted undue influence on the heiress, seeking to pressure her into making lavish gifts to the nurse and the nurse’s family.

The case appeared to be settled at the time we wrote about it October. Now, however, the court battle has begun anew.

Our point in this update goes beyond the specific case. The case exemplifies a larger point: gifts to caregivers who are not family members must be handled with – there is no better word for it – care.

Source: ABA Journal, "Night nurse for reclusive heiress seeks piece of $300 million estate," Mark Hansen, Jan. 10, 2014

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