What is ageism? We attended a
presentation facilitated by the Gerontology Department at Virginia Commonwealth University
this week that answered that question. More importantly, it helped us to see where we had blind spots. (E.g., “Millennials” are not the problem.) While ageism has received more publicity recently, we were surprised to learn how common it is and how serious the problem can be. And given that our practice often involves representing individuals of advanced ages, we hope that VCU continues bringing greater awareness to this issue.
Late last December the Virginia Supreme Court took up this question (again) and affirmed what Elder Law lawyers in Virginia have known for decades: undue influence means coercion. This is often a disheartening discovery for the family members of a deceased loved one to make. It means that when they learn that their father decided to change his will—in the last few weeks of his life—and leave everything to a neighbor who had been his caretaker for the past six months, their chances of invalidating that will on the theory that the neighbor-caretaker made him do it are very, very poor. Make sure you pay attention to anyone who decides to suddenly befriend or take care of your older family members with caretaking needs.
Act 2: Babies Got Bank
is just so strange we had to share it. It’s actually an old tale about the unintended consequences of a frivolous will, but we heard it for the first time this week; if you don’t know it already, we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. And if your intended estate plan is anything like the decedent’s in this story, please consult an attorney before proceeding.
These last two stories highlight some of the pitfalls of estate planning. As Elder Law attorneys, our job is to ensure that your estate plan avoids these opportunities for catastrophe, and that your property goes to the persons you choose on the terms you choose. Even if your plan does not involve caretaking neighbors or complicated baby-lotteries, sound counsel is essential. We would be happy to make sure you get it.