When your loved one seems confused or even forgets who you are, even for just a moment, it can be devastating. However, all too often our loved ones leave their estate planning until they are older and dementia can be a common symptom that comes with age. However, can someone with dementia still legally sign documents like a will or a trust?
The answer is almost always "on a specific case-by-case basis." Typically, if it is just mild dementia, then they still have relative control over their faculties. However, if you are not sure whether they have the faculties for decision-making, a simple test can tell if they are in the right mind to sign legal documents.
Questions that a lawyer will ask before making a legally binding will or trust include:
- Does the client know what the extent of their property ownership is? If they answer precisely on every asset, then it can be easy to gauge if they are dealing in reality or in dementia.
- Do they know who they want included in these documents? This means if they can recall the family they want included as well as excluded. If a family member is not included, can they verbally explain the reason why?
- Do they understand that the document gives their estate over upon their death to the people named? If they think that they are just naming off family members instead of writing a will, this is a good indication that dementia has taken over.
The unfortunate reality with dementia is that your loved one may have known all of the above at the time of signing, but might not recall it as little as ten minutes later. However, as long as they were in their normal frame of mind during signing, then it can be legally binding. What you want with a loved one drawing up their estate is a lawyer that you can trust to make sure they are sound of mind when creating it.
While dementia can be a tricky business, we at the Law Offices of James C. Shields are dedicated to trying our best to make their last wishes legal. If you are ready to create an estate plan or worried about the estate of your loved one with dementia, contact us today.
Additional Reading: What if a Trustee Becomes Incapacitated?