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900 South Avenue, Suite 401, Staten Island, New York 10314-3429
8118 13th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York 11228

The Effect Dementia Has on an Estate Plan

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that more than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and that by the year 2050 that number could triple. It also claims that one in every three senior citizens today dies with Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a broad term used to describe a decline in memory, reasoning, communication skills, and/or focus that is severe enough to affect a person’s daily life. Alzheimer’s disease is only one of many types of dementia, but it accounts for somewhere between 60 percent and 80 percent of cases.

Can a person with dementia create an estate plan?

To properly execute a legal document, a person needs to have the “capacity” to understand what the implications are of signing that document. Under New York law, the threshold is fairly high for signing contracts, but it is quite low for signing a will. People have the legal capacity to sign a will in New York State if:

  • They understand what it means to sign a will.
  • They have a general knowledge of the kind of property that is included in the will and the extent of it.
  • They know which of the people in their life would be considered their natural beneficiaries and what their relationship is to them.

If capacity is questionable and the will is still executed, this may cause a legal heir who is displeased with the will’s terms to sue on the grounds of legal incapacity. For this reason, if a person is clearly incapacitated an attorney may not agree to assist in the preparation of the documents. If the attorney is concerned that a person’s capacity might be called into question, a psychiatrist or other outside expert may be brought in, or during the execution of the will, the attorney may videotape the client answering a series of questions about the family and the contents of the will.

The estate planning attorneys at Armstrong & Lamberti, PLLC proudly serve individuals residing in all boroughs of New York City. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

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