Does your loved one have testamentary capacity?

If your parent has been forgetful lately to the point of concern, you may wonder whether he or she is legally able to make changes to a Michigan estate plan.  

According to the American Bar Association, there are certain elements that can help to determine whether a person has testamentary capacity to change or write a will. Basically, your parent must be able to understand what he or she owns and have the ability to make a rational plan for the disposition of the property.  

Even though the will may state that the testator is of sound mind, that does not mean that your parent is always cognizant of what is going on around him or her. In fact, your parent could already be suffering from dementia and still make changes during lucid intervals. Testators could need someone to take care of their financial matters or make their business decisions for them, but still have testamentary capacity to adjust a will. 

On the other hand, your parent could have all the elements indicating that he or she is of sound mind, but still lack testamentary capacity. This is true when a person has an insane delusion, which means that he or she does not perceive particular individuals or events rationally, and that delusion affects material portions of the will. For example, a person could develop an irrational and extreme paranoia of a family member that leads to a desire to change the will. 

If there is a question of whether or not your parent has the capacity to change the will, it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a physician who can evaluate his or her mental faculties and provide a professional opinion. Although this information may provide you with an idea of the factors affecting testamentary capacity, it is general in nature and is not legal advice.