California’s Caregiver Statute: Protecting the Elderly Against Undue Influence

Caregiver StatuteMany elderly Californians are looked after by caregivers during their golden years. Caregivers frequently play a critical role in the lives of senior citizens, and many develop close personal friendships with the people that they care for. Based on these friendships, many seniors choose to include caretakers in their will in order to leave them a token of their appreciation. While seniors who are mentally competent should clearly be allowed to gift their assets to whomever they choose, gifts given by the elderly to caregivers are often considered to be suspect as some caregivers are in a unique position to exercise undue influence.

In order to protect seniors from undue influence by their caregivers, California enacted the Care Custodian Statute under California Probate Code section 21350. This statute is designed to prevent financial elder abuse by making testamentary gifts to care custodians presumptively invalid. In other words, if someone in California bequeaths assets in their will to their caregiver the gift is generally presumed to be invalid. This article provides a brief overview of California’s Care Custodian Statute by outlining the definitions provided in the statute, and by examining how a presumption of invalidity can be overcome.

Definitions: “Dependent Adults” and “Care Custodians”

Under California’s Care Custodian Statute, a testamentary gift is presumed to be invalid if the giver qualifies as a dependent adult and the recipient qualifies as a care custodian. The statute defines a “dependent adult” as a person who is at least 18 years old and who is not able to provide for his or her own personal needs. Personal needs can include tasks associated with health, clothing, food, shelter, managing financial affairs etc. Furthermore, the statute defines a “care custodian” as a person who provides personal or social services to a dependent adult for a fee. Additionally, a caregiver does not qualify as a care custodian if they had a personal relationship with the dependent adult more than three months before starting to care for them, or six months before the dependent adult was either admitted to hospice care or died.

Exceptions to the General Rule

While a testamentary gift from a dependent adult to a care custodian is presumptively invalid, there are a number of exceptions under which this presumption is overturned. These exceptions include situations in which:

  • The dependent adult and the care custodian are related by blood within the fourth degree,
  • The care custodian is the dependent adult’s spouse or domestic partner,
  • The dependent adult’s estate left gifts of $150,000 or more and the gift left to the care custodian was not more than $5,000,
  • The dependent adult obtained a Certificate of Counsel from a qualified attorney before executing their will naming the care custodian as a beneficiary, or
  • The care custodian can show in court that the gift was not obtained by fraud or undue influence.

Need Legal Advice?

The elder abuse lawyers of the Case Barnett Law Firm are committed to zealously protecting the rights of senior citizens in Southern California. If you suspect that a senior citizen is being, or has been, unduly influenced by a caregiver contact our Newport Beach office today at (949) 861-2990.

5 Comments
dose my care giver who gets tax credits for caring for me have an obligation to do so or can they just put me on the street without consequences? don't they at that point have an obligation to care for disabled dependent?
by Lindy Kidd November 26, 2020 at 07:59 PM
My mother had this happen, a caregiver who was sent by the county of Los angeles had my mother sign a will over to her. She took al the furniture and personal belongings, money, and stole them. IO made a police report with the Hawthorne California Police, they did nothing. I took the apartment building to smal claims court and they claimed they received a copy of that will that was supposedly signed to the caregiver. The judge in Inglewood small claims found in favor of the apartment building for seniors because this thief produced the documents with my mother signature. The apartments in which she liver at least 15 years was complicit because they took a lot of her furniture. 3 Days after my mother died, they never notified me, I was my parents oldest son. I believe it was around the year 2000. My mother was about 78 years old disabled and very confused and sick. I could never find legal help. I tried contacting the local news, and the news papers in the Los Angeles area, where my parents lived their whole lives. There is no one left in my immediate family all are diseased except for me. The thieves who worked for care givers worked for thye county social services as care givers, would have the elderly sign over their belongings and take anything they though they could grab at the time of death and take back to their apartment and throw away what they didn't keep, and would dispose of the furniture. The apartment building in Hawthorne was for senior citizens. The apartment management would clear the apartment immediately and dispose of everything without notice to the relatives. Everything was gone in three days. No one would help me. I am very sick with pancreatic and liver disease, a disabled veteran, and when I found out what happen about weeks after my mother died, I tried everything to get help. Legal help, and no one would help me.
by Steven Palmer June 29, 2020 at 04:34 AM
A friend of mine died a few months ago and I was surprised to see that his living trust had been changed to give 75% to the caregiver and I was never notified. I am the successor trustee and can't seem to be able to find out if I should take measures to have this changed. The caregiver is also a Mexican citizen.
by Bill Lindsey March 18, 2020 at 12:26 PM
by INEZ TUTTLE February 29, 2020 at 02:22 PM
If our elderly one needs medical supplies, I have found this resources https://www.buymedical.com/senior-care-products/ which they offer wholesale medical supplies for the senior citizens .
by Jerry Curry April 5, 2018 at 06:14 AM
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