From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: Though always independent, I recently have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had to move into my daughter’s Delaware County house. I can’t do much for myself anymore and have to rely on my daughter. She is spending a great deal of her time caring for me and she has had to pay for several things out of her own pocket. I want to treat my children equally, but my two sons are very busy and are not able to help, so the work falls all on my daughter. I feel that I need to repay her for all this work at my death, what can I do?
This situation is coming up more and more often, and it certainly can end up causing bad feelings, conflict and even litigation between siblings. The best option is to make a decision now, while you are still able to explain yourself clearly, and put the decision in writing. One option is to give your daughter a larger share in your Will. Your Estate Planning Attorney can work with you to clearly spell out the amount that you wish to leave her and can be the witness after your death to disprove any suspicion that your daughter exercised undue influence on you to make the change.
Better yet, it would be good to let your sons know your wishes and document them now, so there is no surprise (and suspicion) after your death. You could also create an employer/employee relationship in writing with your daughter, specifying how she is to be paid for her time. Then, at your death, she will become a creditor to your estate. Your estate planning attorney can help you with this agreement to make sure it reflects your wishes and to be a witness that this arrangement was not entered into under the undue influence of your daughter. Again, it would be best if you felt comfortable telling your sons now that you have this arrangement and that it is your wish that their sister be paid for her time. That will defuse possible future bad feelings that your sons might have.