Category: Dementia

Mom Might Have Dementia, Can She Still Write a Will in Texas?

If your elderly parent is becoming more forgetful or is demonstrating other unusual behavior, you should get them to a doctor right away to be checked for dementia. More than 3 million cases of dementia are diagnosed each year and is most prevalent among people 65 years old or older. Dementia is often overlooked at the beginning because sometimes the symptoms are very vague, but if caught early, there are steps that you can take to improve your loved one’s cognitive health.

Unfortunately, many people fail to put an estate plan in place and only take action during a medical crisis or after a diagnosis such as dementia. In some of those cases, it is too late due to the client’s diminished capacity. You should not, however, assume that it is always too late.

In order for the legal documents to be valid you must be able to prove that the signer had mental capacity at the time they signed. So even if an individual is suffering from dementia as long as they still have periods of lucidity they may still be competent enough to sign a will in Texas.

The following criteria must be met in order for an individual to be considered mentally competent:

  1. They understand the nature and extent of the property that they own.
  2. They remember who their relatives and descendants are and are able to select who should inherit their property.
  3. They understand the function of a will.
  4. They understand how all of these things are put together to form and estate plan.

It is extremely important that all 4 of these criteria are met when executing the will or you could be leaving the door open for other family members to contest the will. If the will is successfully contested it will be considered invalid and the estate would have to pass through the state’s intestacy laws. Or, if there was a prior valid will, that would be used to settle your parent’s estate. If your parent is showing early signs of dementia, call our office right away for a free consultation. We can make sure that your parent’s wishes are known and documented in a way that will avoid a court challenge.

Professor Researching the Brain to Find Location of Financial Competency Issues

The National Institute on Aging has announced that scientists are now using magnetic resonance imaging of the brain to examine those parts associated with money managing abilities. Because aging makes seniors more vulnerable with financial decisions, those with Alzheimer’s or dementia are at special risk—even in the early stages. 9-15-2016

“Can we actually see a picture of this?” asks Forbes in its article, “Will Brain Images Tell You If Your Aging Parent Can't Handle Money Any More?”

The NIA report cites a prominent researcher, neuropsychologist and lawyer, Dr. Daniel Marson, who says that it’s “the $18.1 trillion problem.” Dr. Marson, a professor of neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is referring to an estimate of household wealth held by U.S. adults age 65 and older.

Although they haven’t yet found a way to pinpoint an exact spot in the brain that says a person is or isn’t competent with finances, the report details the efforts using MRIs to find out more about the brain and financial capacity. The professor says that changes in some parts of the brain are linked to loss of financial capacity.

The report also cites director Nina Silverberg, who commented that “Novel neuroimaging studies, along with studies involving cognitive measures, are providing intriguing data on why older adults—even those who were previously quite savvy about finances—may lose their money-managing abilities.” Silverberg is the program director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Centers at NIA’s Division of Neuroscience.

Here are some takeaways to help with an aging parent who has signs of dementia or related illness:

When the first indications of a memory issue arise with your loved one, try to be more involved in monitoring their spending and money management. Get online access to their bank accounts—even if you just watch what comes in and goes out. That way you can intervene if a problem arises.

You can also offer to pay bills for your aging parents, and it may even be a relief for them. Handling money can be confusing when a parent declines cognitively, serving as a sign of cerebral impairment.

Get to know your aging parent’s financial advisor, attorney and others involved in his or her financial life, and ask your parent for written permission to talk with them. A notarized power of attorney or a letter granting you access to financial information would be required. Tell these professionals about any concerns you have and keep in touch. An ethical professional will want what is best for the client.

A piece of that $18.1 trillion Dr. Marson cited may include some of your potential inheritance, so you’ll want to act to help preserve it. Don’t assume that if your aging parent is okay now that it will stay that way. Even without the science, you should realize that some folks will experience cognitive disorders as they get older—your aging parents just might need your help now and in the future.

Reference: Forbes (July 27, 2016) “Will Brain Images Tell You If Your Aging Parent Can't Handle Money Any More?”