Disputes Over Wills Signed by People Suffering from Dementia: A Heartbreaking but Preventable Problem
It is good news that people are living longer than ever before; even if they had children late in life, they get to see their grandchildren grow up. It is also good news that seniors of this generation feel that they are never too old to find new love, so late in life marriages are becoming more common among widowed and long-divorced seniors. Neither of these things take away the pain of the long, drawn out grieving process when a family member suffers from dementia in his or her final years. Even worse is when you find out during probate that your deceased family member signed his or her will at a date when he or she was suffering from cognitive decline and could not possibly have understood the will. A Central Florida estate planning lawyer can help you if the estate of a family member who suffered from dementia before his or her death is going through probate; your lawyer can also help you set up your own estate plan to prevent such disputes from happening with your estate.
How to Argue That the Decedent Did Not Mean What He Said in the Will
Impulsive or irresponsible behavior, especially with regard to finances, can be an early sign of dementia. A person with dementia might draft a new version of their will, radically different from the old version, without telling their family, or they might deplete many of the assets specified in the will, rendering the will useless. A whirlwind romance that leads quickly to financial entanglements can also be a sign of cognitive decline. A new spouse or friend can easily manipulate an elderly person with dementia into changing their will or turning all of their assets into marital property. It is even possible for one family member to take advantage of an elderly relative’s dementia to manipulate him or her into disinheriting other relatives. The legal term for these actions is undue influence. You can cite undue influence when challenging a will during probate. In other words, you can argue that the decedent could not understand or meaningfully consent to the will he signed, and therefore it does not reflect his true wishes; therefore, the court should divide the estate in a way other than what is specified in the will.
Act Now to Prevent Undue Influence in Your Will
It’s a scary thought, but there may come a time when you cannot make decisions for yourself. What you do now, while you are healthy, can spare your family a painful probate dispute. First, if you do not have a will, you should draft one now. Now matter what happens in the future, there will be a record of what you thought when you were healthy. Second, you should specify a person you trust to make decisions about your finances if ever you are not healthy enough to do so; it can be a family member, friend, or attorney. It is not undue influence if someone makes financial decisions for you when you are infirm, as long as you consented, when you were healthy, to them doing it.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help
An estate planning lawyer can help you create an estate plan that will withstand the challenges that life throws at you and your family in the future. Contact Tampa estate planning lawyer David Toback for a consultation today.