Avoiding Senior Isolation: The Julie Harris Case

Elder law and estate planning often involve overlapping issues. This is not just because seniors are those in need of elder law support (like Medicaid planning) and also the one’s most likely to think seriously about estate planning. Instead, issues connected to securing proper senior care and thriving in one’s golden age can impact how inheritance and asset transfer matters are handled upon death.

Most notably, Will contests and other disputes after a passing are far more likely if the elder caregiving process was filled with confusion, anger, and disagreement.

Take, for example, the case of famed actress, Julie Harris. Harris was prolific in her many working years, starring in hits on Broadway, in television, and movies. Over her nearly sixty year career she won awards from virtually every major body, culminating in being named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2005.

Undue Influence?
Unfortunately, her last years and subsequent death have been marred by less than honorable accusations that have thrown her estate into conflict. Specifically, as discussed most recently by the New York Post, a feud has broken out pitting Harris’s long-time attorney, other Harris employees, and her only son, Peter against her caretaker near the end of her life
Harris reportedly left an estate worth around $10 million. The bulk of the estate was left to Peter. However, many eyebrows were raised in that a codicil to the will (an addition provision added after the document was originally signed) explains that Peter is to be disinherited if he “harasses or intimidates…my friends, including Francesca R. Rubino” (the caretaker). That same caretaker is also set to claim about $250,000 from the estate.

Harris’ long-term lawyer recently filed a motion in court challenging provisions of the Will as procured by fraud and undue influence on the part of the caregiver. The caregiver allegedly isolated Harris from her own son and engineered the firing of other staff members with whom he had personal disagreements.

Ensure Proper Care with Family Involvement This sad story is an example of how caregiving arrangements can ultimately pave the wave for an estate fight. On one hand, securing proper support for ailing seniors is critical, and it often involves use of Medicaid, long-term care insurance, and the support trusted caregivers. Yet, it is important to avoid the pitfalls that may have occurred in thise case, where caregivers are in a position to isolate the senior and generate controversy with family and friends.

The best arrangements are usually joint efforts, with all relevant loved ones involved in the process, working to ensure the senior’s well-being while avoiding any estate planning surprises.

For support properly integrating the various elder law and estate planning issues affecting your family, contact our team of experienced lawyers today.

Contact Information