How to Vote While in a Nursing Home

July 8, 2016

Although voting is the hallmark of a democracy, it isn’t easy if you are in a long-term care facility. Nursing home residents face several challenges to voting, from registering to vote to actually casting a ballot.

When you move into a nursing home or assisted living facility, your address changes, which means you probably need to register to vote based on the new address. You can register in-person, by mail, or, in some states, online. To register in person, visit your local elections office or your local department of motor vehicles. To find out where to register in your state, go here: http://www.eac.gov/voter_resources/contact_your_state.aspx.  Alternatively, there is a national voter registration application that you can use to register by mail. The form includes state-specific instructions. Finally, more than 30 states have online registration.

Once you are registered, you still need to physically cast your ballot. This can be difficult if you have trouble leaving your facility. There are several methods that nursing home residents may be able to use to vote. All states allow absentee voting, but the requirements are different in each state. Some states require an excuse –- such as a physical disability — to vote absentee. In many states being at least aged 60 to 65 (depending on the state), is a reason to qualify for an absentee ballot.

Twenty-three states allow mobile polling, which is supervised absentee voting conducted in the residential facility. Mobile polling is often based on demand, so to get mobile polling in your facility, contact your local elections office.

If it is difficult for you to get to the polls on Election Day, 37 states offer early voting. Early voting allows voters to visit an election office and vote in person without providing an excuse. This can give you the flexibility to vote when it works for you.

For more information about your right to vote while in long-term care, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care has fact sheets on How to Register to Vote and How to Cast a Vote.

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What Is Undue Influence?

Saying that there has been “undue influence” is often used as a reason to contest a will or estate plan, but what does it mean?

Undue influence occurs when someone exerts pressure on an individual, causing that individual to act contrary to his or her wishes and to the benefit of the influencer or the influencer’s friends. The pressure can take the form of deception, harassment, threats, or isolation. Often the influencer separates the individual from their loved ones in order to coerce. The elderly and infirm are usually more susceptible to undue influence.

To prove a loved one was subject to undue influence in drafting an estate plan, you have to show that the loved one disposed of his or her property in a way that was unexpected under the circumstances, that he or she is susceptible to undue influence (because of illness, age, frailty, or a special relationship with the influencer), and that the person who exerted the influence had the opportunity to do so. Generally, the burden of proving undue influence is on the person asserting undue influence. However, if the alleged influencer had a fiduciary relationship with your loved one, the burden may be on the influencer to prove that there was no undue influence. People who have a fiduciary relationship can include a child, a spouse, or an agent under a power of attorney. For more information on contesting a will, go here.

When drawing up a will or estate plan, it is important to avoid even the appearance of undue influence. For example, if you are planning on leaving everything to your daughter who is also your primary caregiver, your other children may argue that your daughter took advantage of her position to influence you. To avoid the appearance of undue influence, do not involve any family members who are inheriting under your will in drafting your will. Family members should not be present when you discuss the will with your attorney or when you sign it. To be totally safe, family members shouldn’t even drive or accompany you to the attorney’s office. You can also get a formal assessment of your mental capabilities done by a medical professional before you draft estate planning documents. For more information on preventing a will contest, go here.

July 14, 2016

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