Can I make a claim on the estate if we did caregiving for free initially?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
A fellow caregiver asked...

My wife and I have been caring for her ailing and completely disabled parents 24/7 for the past 2 years. They recently passed away. Him in Jan. her in Mar. We received no pay for our work. I now find that neither of us were remembered in the will. Her father made out both wills and was probably not competent at the time. I have been told that I could submit a bill to the estate for our work. I wondered if this would be reasonable, and if so how much? There is over $500.000 in the estate.

Expert Answers

Steve Weisman hosts the nationally syndicated radio show A Touch of Grey, heard on more than 50 stations, including WABC in New York City and KRLA in Los Angeles. He is a practicing lawyer specializing in estate planning and is admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court. He's a public speaker and commentator who has appeared on many radio and television shows throughout the country, and he's the legal editor of Talkers magazine, the preeminent trade publication of talk radio. His latest book is The Truth About Avoiding Scams.

If there was no agreement  while they were alive that you  and your wife would be compensated for taking care of your wife's parents, you cannot change the nature of your services as being done for pay as contrasted to being done gratuitously now.  If their Wills were written while they were not of sufficient sound mind to make a Will or while they were under duress or undue influence from someone, the Wills may be found to be invalid.  You should consult a lawyer and consider a challenge to the Wills.  If the Wills are ruled by a court as to not be effective, their previous Wills, if any, will control.  If they did not have previous Wills, the laws of intestacy will apply which would provide for payments to your wife.