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How dementia during estate planning could lead to a probate challenge

On Behalf of | May 3, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are a serious health crisis in the United States. As seniors live longer and our country’s average age continues to rise, more and more Americans will be diagnosed with dementia in their later years. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors have some form of dementia at the end of their lives, and an estimated 13 million Americans are expected to be living with dementia by the year 2050.

One of the things that a well-craft estate plan can do for you is ensure that your finances and medical care proceed according to your wishes, even if dementia takes away your ability to handle these matters yourself someday. But a dementia diagnosis, or just signs of possible dementia, can lead to a will challenge in probate court after the testator passes away.

Alzheimer’s and testamentary capacity

One of the most common reasons for someone to challenge a will’s validity is a lack of testamentary capacity. In order to create or amend a valid will, the testator must be able to understand what is going on and the consequences of signing the will. This means the person should have been able to understand things like:

  • The size and value of their estate.
  • Who their heirs and beneficiaries are.
  • What they are giving through their will.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or similar condition does not automatically mean the testator lacked capacity. They could be in the disease’s early stages and still be able to understand the details and implications of their estate plan. Whether the testator had capacity at the time their will was executed could become the subject of a will challenge later on. Often, the person who files the challenge is not included as an heir or beneficiary or is unsatisfied with the size of their inheritance.

Will challenges are serious

Probate litigation can be expensive and time-consuming for everyone involved. It must be handled properly to try to honor the deceased’s final wishes as much as possible.