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Can you change your will if you have dementia?

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2022 | Estate Planning |

There’s nothing like a serious medical diagnosis to make someone reevaluate their wills. In fact, that’s the sort of event that often prompts people to realize that their current estate plans are sadly out of date.

But, what if that recent medical diagnosis was some form of dementia? Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, you may still want to make changes to your will, your powers of attorney and other final plans.

Is it too late? Probably not. You may just have to go through a few extra steps. Here’s what you need to know:

It takes testamentary capacity to change a will

While every case is unique, the odds are high that your diagnosis will come at a point when you still have plenty of good days and a lot of clarity about your situation. (That’s especially likely if you’re asking these kinds of questions about your situation.)

Ultimately, making changes to your will and other estate planning documents comes down to a matter of whether or not you have testamentary capacity. That generally means that you must:

  • Understand the nature and extent of what you own
  • You know who your heirs are and understand how they stand to inherit
  • You understand how the will works and how it would distribute your property
  • You are able to form a plan that connects all of these together

Similarly, for your other estate planning documents, like powers of attorney, you would need to demonstrate that you understood what each item does and are making clear, deliberate choices for your future.

Since you already have a diagnosis that speaks to your mental capacity, you want to counter any potential disputes about your testamentary capacity as much as possible. This may mean asking your doctor to provide a statement that you still have the capacity to make these decisions on your own, making sure that there are disinterested witnesses (non-heirs) present when you sign your will and maybe even using videotape to show that you were fully cognizant of your actions at the time the new will was executed.

If you need to change your estate plans after a dementia diagnosis, experienced legal guidance is essential.