As Americans age, Michigan residents need to be familiar with many of the diseases that can affect elderly individuals. While some of these diseases can be problems with the body, others can be problems of the mind. In some cases, individuals lose their ability to understand who they are, where they are and what they are doing.
This decline in thinking and memory abilities is often referred to as dementia. Dementia includes a variety of medical conditions that affect a person’s cognitive, psychological and physical functioning. When a person suffers from dementia it can be difficult, if not impossible, for that individual to function normally. A person may need help in all areas of the person’s life. This includes making legal and financial decisions.
In order to make legal estate planning decisions, an individual must be competent. In order to be competent and have capacity to make these decisions, individuals must fulfill four requirements.
First, people must have the capacity to understand that they are making decisions about how to dispose of property after they die. Second, people must be able to distinguish their own property. In other words, they must know the nature and extent of the property that they own.
Third, in order to be competent enough to make estate planning decisions people must be able to understand and know who their families are. Put another way, people must know the natural objects of their bounty. Finally, people must have a reasonable understanding of what happens when they sign their wills or estate planning documents. They must understand the general nature and effect of this action.
If people are unable to meet these requirements, an estate planning document that is created during this time may not be valid. For example, a will created when a person is not competent may not be legally upheld in court. An attorney can explain how competency interacts with estate planning in specific cases.