My Mom Has Dementia... Can She Sign Legal Documents?

Dealing with a loved one’s dementia can be an extremely tough situation. First of all, seeing a parent suffer from memory loss is often a heart-wrenching, emotional experience. But on top of all that, there are numerous legal questions that need to be addressed. Understanding a loved one’s wishes when they begin to suffer from the symptoms of dementia can be a difficult process, which is why it’s best to ensure that all of their documents are in place while they are still well. Afterwards, the question of their legal ability to sign documents becomes much trickier.

Can a Person with Dementia Sign Legal Documents?

If a parent is suffering from dementia and has not yet written a will or finalized their estate plan, this can put your family in a touchy position. You may wonder if it’s too late or if they are still legally able to draft and sign documents. The truth is that it depends on how advanced their dementia is and how lucid they remain.

In the state of Alabama, the standards used to determine an individual’s “legal capacity” to sign a document depend on the nature of the individual document. For example, if a person wishes to sign a durable power of attorney, giving decision-making powers to a trusted individual, the person needs only to be able to comprehend their own actions in signing the document. If, however, they are looking to execute a will, the standards are higher. They must be able to understand the nature and extent of their property as well as the identity of their intended recipients. Generally, a legal determination that is heavily informed by a medical assessment will be made—which determines whether or not a person is capable of knowingly signing a specific document before the signing can be carried out.

Preparing for the Future

Because you never know when you or a loved one may become incapacitated or otherwise become unable to make decisions, it’s important to be prepared. Drafting a will or establishing a trust, as well as filling out your healthcare documents, can let you and your family rest easy should anything happen. Among the most important healthcare documents to have in place are a durable power of attorney for finances and an advanced directive for healthcare.  An advanced directive contains a living will which has instructions about your medical treatment and end of life decisions.  The advanced directive also names a healthcare proxy who will be charged with making medical decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so.

Contact Miller Estate and Elder Law

If you have any questions about a loved one suffering from dementia, the experienced attorneys at Miller Estate and Elder Law are here to help. Fill out the form below and someone will contact you shortly.

For more information, download our free e-book, You’re Not Alone: Living with Dementia

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