Just about all of the inheritances in a typical estate go to family members or to the deceased’s favorite charities. But when an unrelated individual is the beneficiary of a valuable asset or a large sum of money, it can raise questions and perhaps suspicions from those who felt they had a right to the inheritance. The issue may become how to balance the wishes of the testator—by distributing his or her assets as he or she sees fit—with the right of the bequeathed or the beneficiary of the will to accept it without creating a conflict of interest or violating the essential trust.
Receiving a non-relative inheritance has its risks. If you think you’re going to be named as a beneficiary of a will by someone other than a close relative, you should take steps to protect yourself. The suspicion that some underhanded was going on can be significant, especially if a relative was cut out of the inheritance. You should remove and protect yourself from any dealings that could be interpreted as self-serving. That includes depending upon experts to determine capacity because the court will review this evidence to determine if the will is valid. An experienced estate planning attorney can help to advise your actions.
Fewer than 1% of all inheritances are subject to the federal estate tax, but you should review your estate planning with an experienced estate planning attorney. There’s something deeper here beyond the letter of the law. It’s about caring for elderly people who’re losing capacity. They deserve dignity and the right to leave their assets as they see fit without the threat of elder exploitation. The key is understanding and respecting the scope and meaning of care-giving.
Reference: New Hampshire Magazine (September 2016) “Navigating Non-Relative Inheritance”