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Estate planning: questions about a loved one's capacity

For New York residents, the holidays present a time to gather with family to celebrate and give thanks. As generations, young and old, gather together this holiday season, situations may arise that lead family members to question an aging parent's or grandparent's mental capacity.

Today, families often live great distances from one another and therefore only see each other once or twice per year. In some cases, a grown child may notice that mom or dad seems confused or is unable to readily recall information or carry on a conversation. When questions about a loved one's mental capacity are raised, family members would be wise to take steps to ensure for a loved one's personal and financial safety and security.


It’s a sad reality that elderly individuals with few or distant relatives may be targeted by unscrupulous individuals or organizations. In some cases, an individual may actively seek to exploit and target an elderly man or woman who seems confused and lonely. Family members who have concerns that a loved one may be the victim of such a plot would be wise to take action.

In cases where a loved one's mental capacity is in question, family members may choose to schedule a capacity assessment. During a capacity assessment, a loved one's mental state and capacity is evaluated. In cases where a loved one is deemed to lack capacity, a formal diagnosis allows family members to take appropriate action. Not only can a capacity assessment benefit family members in taking steps to provide for a loved one's physical safety and wellbeing, but such an assessment can also be helpful in protecting the financial health of a loved one as well as that of future generations.

In cases where an individual is deemed to lack capacity, family members may take action to protect a loved one from predatory individuals seeking to benefit financially. Additionally, estate planning documents executed by a loved one may be contested on the grounds that an individual lacked capacity.

Family members who have questions or concerns related to a loved one's estate would be wise to seek legal advice. An estate planning attorney can answer questions and provide advice on how to formally contest a will or dispute an estate matter.

Source: The Glen Rose Reporter, "LIFE CARE PLANNING: No time for holiday from careful observation," Sandra W. Reed, Nov. 25, 2013

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