In San Luis Obispo and the state of California, a “dependent adult” is afforded extra protections under the law. These protections include added penalties for actions that can constitute elder/adult abuse. They also extend to situations where an individual might defraud or exert “undue influence” upon a dependent adult to become a beneficiary of their estate.

Dependent Adults Are Vulnerable to Caregivers

In many situations, a dependent adult will require the services of a caregiver. Over time, the dependent adult may develop a bond with the person, or they may come to rely upon the person to handle their legal affairs. This puts the dependent adult in a vulnerable situation. 

If the caregiver is given an inheritance by a dependent adult, California law automatically moves to protect the dependent individual by operating under the assumption that the caregiver exerted undue influence. It then becomes the responsibility of the allegedly manipulative party to defend against this assumption.

To qualify for these protections, the asset-holding individual must first be considered a “dependent adult” according to the definition provided by California law.

Read on for the specifics of this definition and how it might affect your probate case. If you have questions about dependent adult status or how the law might play into your current inheritance case, you can speak with a probate lawyer in San Luis Obispo absolutely free. Call the Ernst Law Group at (805) 678-0272 or contact us online to schedule your free, no-obligation case review now.

California’s Definition of a “Dependent Adult”

California Welfare and Institutions Code § 15610.23 defines a dependent adult as follows:

  • (a) “Dependent adult” means a person, regardless of whether the person lives independently, between the ages of 18 and 64 years who resides in this state and who has physical or mental limitations that restrict his or her ability to carry out normal activities or to protect his or her rights, including, but not limited to, persons who have physical or developmental disabilities, or whose physical or mental abilities have diminished because of age.
  • (b) “Dependent adult” includes any person between the ages of 18 and 64 years who is admitted as an inpatient to a 24-hour health facility.

Protections Afforded to Dependent Adults in California

There are two primary protections given to individuals who are considered a dependent adult in the state of California:

  1. Any physical, emotional, or sexual abuse – including trauma inflicted by negligent conduct – can constitute a violation of California laws protecting the elderly and those with disabilities. Those found to have inflicted abuse upon an elder or disabled person not only face possible civil and criminal penalties, but the victim of the abuse can also seek to recover damages inflicted upon them, including the pain and suffering they have experienced.
  2. Dependent adults are protected from unexpected transfers of property or assets to individuals who might exert undue influence over them. This includes caregivers, those who marry them, and individuals responsible for drafting or transcribing a will, trust, or similar “instrument” of estate transfer.

The second type of protection may be highly relevant to the case of a loved one who has recently passed on or is in critical condition. 

California Probate Code § 21380 specifically states that if someone is in a category that can exert undue influence on the dependent adult, then any inheritance or transfer they are given is presumed to be the product of manipulation. The burden of proof is then placed upon the individual to refute these allegations.

In other words, if a parent or relative makes sudden changes to their will to the benefit of a party in a position of power (usually within 90 days of receiving care), surviving family members may have strong grounds to contest the will. This action can be particularly important when direct family members who would have normally received an inheritance are overlooked in favor of someone the decedent only recently met or interacted with.

These laws are designed to protect vulnerable adults from being manipulated, but they also protect the legacies of these individuals. Without such protections, they could easily be preyed upon by those they depend upon for support, companionship, or even legal advice.

Protect the Rights of Your Dependent Family Members with a San Luis Obispo Probate Lawyer 

If you suspect someone close to you is the victim of past or ongoing elder abuse, don’t hesitate to take action. Report abuse to your local county’s Adult Protective Services (APS) Program. You can also work with a probate attorney to scrutinize any recent changes to the individual’s will, trust, or similar instrument of property transfer.

Reach out to Ernst Law Group now to find out more about your legal rights as a beneficiary and what protections your loved one may be afforded as a dependent adult. Schedule a free appointment when you call (805) 678-0272 or contact us online.