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Wills: Testamentary capacity compromised after dementia diagnosis

For estate planning documents to be valid in New York and elsewhere, the testator must have had testamentary capacity when the papers were signed. In cases in which wills were signed or modified after dementia diagnosis, challenges might be filed. One man had several questions after his three siblings pressured their father into changing his will.

The man reported that his siblings, along with legal counsel and two witnesses, arrived at their father's home and presented a newly drafted will. The father, who had recently been diagnosed with early-stage dementia, was informed that his previous will was inadequately witnessed. The father struggled to read the document but signed it anyway, after which, the two witnesses added their signatures to the new will. They departed without leaving a copy of the will for the father or the remaining sibling to read.

The son who was left out of these arrangements might have grounds to challenge the new will's validity. A paper trail of the medical diagnosis and both the previous and new wills will likely be significant proof of wrongdoing on the parts of the siblings and their attorney. For a will to be valid, the testator must be of sound mind, and he or she must understand what is being signed. This ability is known as testamentary capacity, the lack of which could deem a will invalid.

Anyone in New York who has questions or doubts about the validity of a parent's will can get answers from an estate planning attorney. A lawyer with extensive experience in dealing with wills and trusts can assess the circumstances and determine the viability of a legal challenge. The lawyer can also provide the necessary support and guidance throughout the ensuing legal proceedings.

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