This question is being decided in a New York lawsuit. While we always assume doctors have the best interests of their patients at the fore (that Hippocratic Oath thing), doctors are people just the same. They have the same temptations as everyone else and a court will decide whether the doctor in question crossed the line.
A recent article in The New York Post, titled "Doctor wrote himself into 102-year-old patient's will: suit," tells the story Helen Schlesinger is 102 years old and has assets worth millions of dollars. In 2003, Schlesinger executed her will leaving the bulk of her estate to her friend, Donna Spears, and an unnamed family member. So far, so good.
Not so fast!
Spears has filed a lawsuit against Schlesinger's doctor, Lawson Moyer.
Problem 1: She alleges that after Dr. Moyer began caring for Schlesinger, Moyer rewrote her will.
Problem 2: As you might expect, the new will allegedly leaves only $25,000 to Spears. It also leaves $100,000 to Moyer with the remainder distributed to charities.
Beyond the sensational facts, this is a very common scenario when it comes to disputes over estate planning.
It is often alleged that the caregiver of an elderly person has induced the elderly person to rewrite his or her estate plan in the caregiver's favor. Sometimes, that turns out to be exactly what happened.
On the other hand, it is also not uncommon for an elderly person to want to rewrite his or her estate plan to leave money to a caregiver without any wrongdoing having been done. The issue is a difficult one for courts to sort out.
Teaching point: Whenever you rewrite your estate plan, you should have the advice of an independent, experienced estate planning attorney. Consequently, the likelihood that someone will be able to contest your revised estate plan will be greatly reduced.
And that is valuable peace of mind for all involved.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your financial, tax and estate plans, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage competent professional counsel.
For more information about estate planning in Overland Park, KS (and throughout the rest of Kansas and Missouri) and to download free tools to help you organize your estate, visit my estate planning website.
Reference: New York Post (October 16, 2014) "Doctor wrote himself into 102-year-old patient's will: suit"