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Alzheimers / Dementia and the Law

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Legal issues are usually low on the list of concerns of the family and person who has just been diagnosed with dementia. Yet if not dealt with in the early stages of the disease, legal matters can become an extra burden in what may already be a difficult situation.

Dementia causes a decline in mental abilities to the point where loss of understanding and comprehension are dominant features. This is referred to as loss of mental capacity.

For a Will, Advance Health Directive, Enduring Power of Attorney, or any other legal document to be valid, the person who signed must prove they are capable of understanding what they are doing, ie) that they have mental capacity, (referred to as having testamentary capacity, in the case of making a Will).

The diagnosis of dementia in a person does not automatically mean the person has lost the mental capacity to sign legal documents. As long as the signature is made in a rational or lucid period, the person is said to have the required mental capacity. If there is any doubt, written expert medical evidence is required in support of the signing.

It is therefore very important to address legal matters as soon as the person has been diagnosed with dementia. It is too late to attend these legal matters once the dementia has progressed to the point where mental capacity is lost.

Information Source http://www.alzheimersonline.org/alzheimers/law/menu.php