May Someone with Dementia Sign a Last Will and Testament?

Creating a Last Will and Testament is one of the most important parts of forming an estate plan. To be sure, a Last Will and Testament allows a person to designate the distribute of their property to loved ones, beneficiaries, and third-parties; it offers peace of mind that estate matters are being handled per the creator’s wishes.

But in order to form a Last Will and Testament, certain criteria must be satisfied. If a person is suffering from dementia or another psychological condition, there may be questions about their ability to sign. Consider the following about the rules for forming a Last Will and Testament in Massachusetts, and how suffering from dementia may affect a person’s ability to create a Last Will and Testament:

Requirements for Signing a Last Will and Testament in Massachusetts

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, recognizing the importance of a Last Will and Testament and the fact that all persons should have a right to say what happens to their property, allows nearly anyone to form a Last Will and Testament. However, there are some limitations to this. In order to form a Last Will and Testament in Massachusetts, the following criteria must be satisfied:

  • The testator (person forming the Last Will and Testament) must be at least 18 years of age;
  • The signing of the Last Will and Testament must be witnessed by two people; and
  • The testator must be of sound mind at the time the Last Will and Testament is signed.

How Can Dementia Affect a Person’s Ability to Sign a Last Will and Testament?

Contrary to popular belief, dementia is not a specific disease; rather, dementia refers to a set of symptoms that are associated with a decline in memory or thinking that are severe enough to impact a person’s ability to perform basic activities. The two most common dementia types are vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s dementia. Some of the symptoms of dementia include memory loss, inability to focus, challenges with communication and language, impaired visual perception, and impaired reasoning and judgment.

Signs of dementia develop over time, and someone with early symptoms of dementia may still be able to enter into a Last Will and Testament, possessing the mental capacity to make decisions and understand the consequences of those decisions. Someone with more developed dementia, on the other hand, including Alzheimer’s disease, may not satisfy the “of sound mind” requirement that entering into a Last Will and Testament mandates.

Meet with a Massachusetts Elder Law and Life-Planning Attorney Today

As people age and their health becomes more precarious, ensuring that estate planning documents are in place is of critical importance. However, understanding how to navigate the process of creating a Last Will and Testament and other estate planning documents can be complex, especially if a testator is suffering from a condition that affects their mental capacity.

At the office of Patricia Bloom-McDonald, Attorney at Law, estate planning, elder law, and life-planning attorney, Patricia Bloom-McDonald can help you to understand your options for planning for the future, and what to do if a condition like dementia precludes you from signing a Last Will and Testament. For your initial one hour, no-cost consultation, please call her office or send her a message directly to get started.