Estate Planning for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in Florida
While all of us hope that we will be in good health and of a sound mind as we age, there is always a risk of developing some sort of condition that may impact our mental abilities. For many older people, being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s means that they are unable to make critical financial and healthcare decisions on their own and have to rely on their loved ones. Moreover, for those individuals, it is also very likely that they may live for many years with mental incapacity.
It is important that individuals with a potential diagnosis seek assistance in creating an estate plan. This will ensure that your family members are able to make decisions according to your wishes in the event of your incapacity, especially if it will be long-term.
Can You Execute a Valid Will if You Have Dementia or Alzheimer’s in Florida?
Many individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia wonder, “Can I still execute a valid will in Florida?” Or would your will or estate plan be invalidated simply because of the diagnosis?
Under Section 732.501, Florida Statutes, any resident may execute a Will if you are 18 years of age or older and of a sound mind. “Sound mind” is determined by evaluating a person’s “testamentary capacity” prior to executing a Will in Florida.
When the testator’s “testamentary capacity” is contested by the beneficiaries, the validity of a Will signed by someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s could be questioned. Therefore, it is vital to seek help from a knowledgeable estate planning attorney in Florida to help you draft and execute a valid will.
How Do Florida Courts Evaluate Testamentary Capacity?
Florida courts use four factors to evaluate testamentary capacity, which is also known as the “sound mind” test or “sufficient mental capacity”:
- Does the testator understand that they are distributing their property after death?
- Is the testator aware of the nature and extent of their distributable property and assets?
- Does the testator know the named beneficiaries and heirs?
- Does the testator understand “in a reasonable manner” the effect of their will?
A dementia diagnosis does not conclusively negate testamentary capacity, but it is certainly evidence that testamentary capacity did not exist at the time of signing a Will.
Estate Planning for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
Diseases that affect memory and mental capacity are tricky because these conditions may progress to the point when the testator is no longer able to understand the extent of their property, the purpose of estate planning, or even recognize family members. These symptoms will serve as evidence of a lack of testamentary capacity, which means a person can no longer create or modify their estate plan.
When a person is still of a sound mind, it is important to create an estate plane before the disease renders you incapacitated. In addition to a Will, you should consider executing a living will, health care surrogate designation, and durable power of attorney. Once you become incapacitated, it is crucial you have at least one individual named to make decisions on your behalf. If you do not have these documents at the time of your incapacitation, your family members may have to file for guardianship.
Speak with our St. Petersburg estate planning attorneys to draft an estate plan that reflects your wishes. Contact Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP, if you are worried about dementia or Alzheimer’s. Call at 727-471-5868 for a consultation.