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Can Mom Make Changes to Her Will Even Though She Has Dementia?

  • July 17th, 2015
Q
My mom has been diagnosed with altered mental status including: REM sleep behavior disorder, cerebral degeneration, and non-Alzheimer’s-type dementia, possibly Lewy body dementia. Is she legally able to sign a will and make changes to insurance polices that she bought 20 years ago? If she makes changes and signs the will, would it be void considering her mental diagnosis? 
A

Signing a will while having dementia does not automatically make a will invalid. In order for a will to be valid, the person signing must have "testamentary capacity," which means he or she must understand the implications of what is being signed. Generally, your mother would be considered mentally competent to sign a will if the following criteria are met: She understands the nature and extent of her property, which means she knows what she owns and how much of it; she remembers and understands who her relatives and descendants are and is able to articulate who should inherit her property; she understands what a will is and how it disposes of property; and she understands how all these things relate to each other and come together to form a plan. A qualified elder attorney should determine whether your mother has testamentary capacity to make any changes. If she does make changes, the will would not automatically be void. Someone challenging her capacity to change her will would have to file a will contest. For more information about capacity requirements for executing various estate planning documents, click here.

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For more about Lewy body dementia, click here.


Last Modified: 07/17/2015

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