Donna Spears, a longtime friend of centenarian Helen Schlesinger, claims in her Manhattan civil suit that New York-Presbyterian physician Dr. Lawson Moyer has broken the law by both treating the 470 Park Ave. resident and appointing himself as her power of attorney.
Can you trust your doctor with your will?
A recent article in The New York Post, titled "Doctor wrote himself into 102-year-old patient's will: suit," tells the story of a lawsuit recently filed in New York. Helen Schlesinger is 102 years old and has assets worth millions of dollars. In 2003, she wrote a will leaving the bulk of her estate to her friend, Donna Spears, and an unnamed family member. Spears has filed a lawsuit against Dr. Lawson Moyer. She alleges that after he began caring for Schlesinger, Moyer rewrote her will. The new will allegedly gives Spears only $25,000. It also leaves $100,000 to Moyer with the remainder to be distributed to charities.
Beyond the headline-catching parts this is a very common scenario, if not the most common scenario, in disputes over estates.
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. However, 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.
Anytime that you rewrite your estate plan, you should have the advice of an independent estate planning attorney. That will lessen the likelihood that someone will be able to dispute it successfully in the future.