Can a Person with Dementia Change Their Will?
With people living longer than ever, the number of elderly being diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease is on the rise. Many people living with these diseases have already created an estate plan, but what happens if someone wishes to change a will after receiving a diagnosis of dementia? Is he or she allowed to change the will? The experienced estate planning and probate lawyers at The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys understand this difficult topic and are prepared to help you and your loved ones manage this situation. To learn more about your legal options, call or contact the office today for a free consultation of your case.
Can a Will be Changed After Diagnosis?
Whether or not a will can be changed after a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease is entirely dependent on the specifics of your case. Making a change to a will after diagnosis does not automatically render it invalid. The key question is whether the person with dementia still has the testamentary capacity to make amendments to the will.
In order to be mentally competent to amend a will after a diagnosis of dementia, the following must be true:
- First, the testator must understand the nature and extent of his or her property.
- Second, the testator remembers who the heirs are and how they should inherit the property.
- Third, the testator understands what a will is and that it disposes of the estate property.
- Fourth and finally, the testator must understand all three aspects of the will in relation to one another.
If all aspects of mental competence for making changes are there, a person can amend a will even after being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. However, even if there is testamentary capacity, you should still take steps to avoid any accusations of a lack of capacity by heirs during probate.
Steps to Protect Any Changes in an Estate Dispute
There are a few steps that you can take in order to protect against will challenges if someone who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease wishes to amend his or her will. First and foremost, get a medical professional to sign off on the mental capacity of the person amending the will. Having medical documentation about the capacity of the testator can go a long way in disproving any claims of a lack of capacity.
You can also consider having disinterested witnesses present during the process of making amendments to the will. These are people who stand to inherit nothing in the estate and therefore can give unbiased testimony as to the capacity of the testator when changes are made to the will.
Videotaping the process also provides strong proof of testamentary capacity if someone with a diagnosis of dementia wishes to amend a will. An attorney or medical professional can ask the testator a series of questions related to capacity prior to signing off on the amendments on tape and get the signing on video, as well. This can disprove any notions that testamentary capacity was lost between any prior medical examination and the changes made to the will.
How an Estate Planning Attorney can Help
An experienced estate planning attorney is critically important to the success of amending a will after the testator has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. An attorney can ensure that all precautions are taken to prevent an estate dispute or will challenges in probate, and they can draft any amendments to the will according to the testator’s wishes. The lawyer can also keep copies of all medical documentation, videotapes, and other evidence that proves mental capacity to change the will. Having an estate planning attorney present throughout the process also puts the estate in the best possible position to argue against any will challenges, as the attorney understands all aspects of the estate and can easily provide proof of testamentary capacity.
Call or Contact Our Office Now
Making changes to a will after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia can be tricky, but having an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney by your side can minimize the chances of a will contest by an heir claiming that the testator lacked the mental capacity to make changes to the will. At the Inheritance Recovery Attorneys, our office of dedicated legal professionals is here to help you or a loved one amend their final will or other estate planning documents. To learn more about your legal options following a diagnosis of dementia, call or contact our office today to schedule a free consultation of your case.