Caregivers, Capacity And Conflict, Part 1: Dementia And Estate Plans

Dementia is not a precise clinical term.

To be sure, we all have a general sense of what it refers to: some degree of decline in cognitive capacity. But such declines can range from the very mild to the extremes of Alzheimer's disease.

In any case, it can be very challenging when a loved one's decline becomes more serious in scope. Families in Michigan and across the nation struggle to respond appropriately to these challenges.

In this two-part post, we will discuss what can happen when someone who is struggling with dementia makes decisions that benefit a caregiver to the detriment of others who would otherwise inherit.

In order to execute a valid will or trust, someone must of course have a sufficiently sound mind to know what he or she is doing.

Many elderly people take that step and have an estate plan in place to transfer wealth to family members. What happens, however, when someone who is struggling with dementia to some degree makes changes in favor of a caregiver?

In some cases, the caregiver could be a member of the family, perhaps even a beneficiary of the will. In other cases, the caregiver may be a non-family member.

Either way, difficulties can arise when a decision in favor of the caregiver appears to be connected to - or at least clouded by - a degree of dementia. Such decisions call into question whether the caregiver exerted undue influence and whether the person who changed their estate plan really knew what they were doing.

In part two of this post, we will discuss how to approach such questions.

Source: mySA, "Paid Caretaker should not be receiving inheritance," Paul Premack, March 3, 2014

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