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Can you write a will after receiving a dementia diagnosis?

Receiving a dementia diagnosis is a life-altering moment – for you and your loved ones. Aside from the emotional impact of your diagnosis, you may be facing numerous physical and logistical challenges as you prepare for the future. For example, you may be concerned about your options for estate planning – whether that means getting an estate plan in place or revising an old one.

A “lack of testamentary capacity” is one of the major reasons that wills and trusts are contested during the succession process, meaning that they’re challenged on the basis that the testator wasn’t of “sound mind” when they made their plans. Knowing that, you’ll need to proceed carefully.

You need to act quickly

Your diagnosis doesn’t automatically stop you from making or changing an estate plan, but the process does become a little more complicated – and time is of the essence. As your cognitive decline progresses, your capacity to make sound decisions will diminish. The sooner you take action after your diagnosis, the easier it will be to show that you have the requisite mental capacity to understand the consequences of your decisions as you craft your will, trust, health care directives and powers of attorney.

You may want to consider asking your physician for a letter of competency that you can include in your estate documents. This is typically written by your primary care physician since they are most likely to be familiar with changes in your baseline functioning, but a letter from a neurologist, geriatrician or psychiatrist may also be useful. That can help eliminate doubts about your mental capacity at the time your estate plan was crafted if someone does mount a challenge.

Getting your estate plan in place after a dementia diagnosis requires some careful planning, but legal guidance is available to make the process easier.