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How to challenge an estate created by someone with Alzheimer’s

On Behalf of | Jun 21, 2024 | Estate Planning And Probate

As our loved ones age, their cognitive abilities and memory can fade. Seeing this decline can be heartbreaking, but it can also have financial implications for loved ones tasked with helping care for their aging loved one and those who are set to inherit from their estate.

If your loved one recently passed away and you were either left out of their inheritance scheme or were left with less than you were expecting, then you might be in this position, wondering whether their mental health played a role in the outcome.

It’s a valid consideration. After all, for an estate plan to be legally binding, the testator, that’s the individual who creates and signs off on the estate plan, must have the requisite mental capacity. If your loved one suffered from a condition like Alzheimer’s or dementia, then you might be wondering how it’s even possible for them to know to whom they left their assets and what, exactly, their estate plan did.

Can you challenge an estate plan created by someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Yes, but your success is going to depend on the unique circumstances of your case. Since even those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia can experience periods of lucidity, even they have the capacity to create a legally valid estate plan.

So, how do you determine whether a challenge could be successful? Here are a few things to take into account as you analyze your circumstances:

  • Your loved one’s medical records: These documents will provide valuable insight into your loved one’s medical condition leading up to the execution of their estate plan documentation. As a result, these medical records could demonstrate that they didn’t have the mental capacity to create legally binding estate plan documents, especially if there’s mention in the records about your loved one appearing confused. Getting your hands on these records will likely require some legal maneuvering, though, so talk through this strategy with your attorney.
  • Witness observations: There’s a good chance that there were witnesses who observed your loved one’s condition at or near the time of document execution. If they saw your loved one struggle to recognize people or remember the purpose of signing estate plan documents, then you have strong evidence that they lacked the requisite testamentary capacity.
  • Testimony from your loved one’s medical professionals: Even if your loved one’s medical records don’t give you the evidence you were hoping for, you should still talk to their medical providers to see if they have any observations or opinions as to your loved one’s mental clarity during relevant times. You might find that they have a lot of impressions that they didn’t put in your loved one’s medical records.
  • Expert testimony: Understanding the nature and extent of Alzheimer’s and dementia can be difficult for those who are outside of the medical field, including the judge in your case. That’s where expert testimony may prove beneficial. One of these experts can educate the court on the limitations of these conditions and how your loved one’s symptoms may be indicative of a more severe mental disorder.

Aggressively protect your interests and your loved one’s estate

You might feel bad about challenging your loved one’s estate, but don’t. If they lacked testamentary capacity, then the plan that’s in place may not even reflect what they actually wanted out of their distribution scheme. All you’re doing is applying the law fairly. So, if you want to learn more about how to protect your interests in these matters, then please continue to read up on these issues and consider your next steps.