‘I don’t want to benefit from will’

Vera has a problem. She has a friend who wants to make her the beneficiary of her will – against her wishes. Can estate planning lawyer Rod Cunich help her?

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Q. Vera*
I’m so hoping you can help me with this problem. I have a neighbour and good friend who is a mental health patient, but still very capable of looking after herself. However, she has one problem that I’m now trying to explain to her and help her to avoid – she’s very vulnerable to ‘financial abuse’. She has one daughter and two granddaughters. However, they are not a part of her life and actively ignore her, even though she writes letters to her daughter practically begging her to call or visit.

She has now decided that it’s time to cut ties with them. Here’s my problem. 

My friend wants to redo her will nominating me as her executor and beneficiary. I tell her constantly that my help and friendship do not come with a price tag and that I do not want her to do this. However, in all truth, she has no one else in her life to leave anything to.

Having said all of this, she does not really own anything of value: no home or car, and has only a modest amount of money in the bank.

I am more than happy to organise her funeral and take care of her furniture and things, clean out her unit and so on when her time comes – assuming that I won’t go before her as I’m a year older than her. But I do not want to inherit from her for several reasons, not the least of which is the impact of public perception.

Can you make any suggestions? I have tried to get her to consider charities – there are so many that would be suitable – but to no avail.

A.Your approach to this problem is admirable. I suggest that you accept the role as executor so that you can ensure her affairs (as small as they may be) are looked after correctly. It is important that she see an independent solicitor (not one you have an association with) and that you are not present when she gives instructions. Suggest to her that she leave her assets to her favourite local charity. 

If she insists on you receiving something, perhaps she can specify in her will that you be paid a fee for acting in the role of executor (which can be demanding, time consuming and stressful) rather than receiving a gift as a beneficiary. In this way, she can benefit you while minimising any adverse public/family perception. If she dies without a will, then her estate goes to her daughter.

*Not her real name

This answer is general information only, not specific legal advice. You should not rely on it without specific advice from an expert who can review all the relevant documents and circumstances. 

Rod Cunich is a lawyer with more than 30 years’ experience who specialises in estate planning. If you have a question for Rod, simply email it to: [email protected]

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Disclaimer: This information has been provided by Rod Cunich and should be considered general in nature – legal advice should be sought.

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