In this Elder Law Minute, Wes Coulson explains how assessing competency is an important legal decision.
Hi! I’m Wes Coulson from Coulson Elder Law, proudly serving clients throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area and beyond. I’d like to welcome you to our Elder Law and Estate Planning Minute. We do these to help educate people, give them some little tips, and especially to let them know the questions they need to ask, things that they’ve maybe not thought of. Our thought on that is that we can help you best if you realize the things that you need help and that we can help you with. So I hope you enjoy. Thanks!
As an elder law attorney, I am sometimes called upon to make an assessment of whether someone is competent to sign a legal document. And, it’s interesting, that is not a medical decision legally, but rather a legal decision. And, we’ve moved away legally from it being a yes or no question, to a question of being competent to sign a particular document. If you will, if you want to ask, whether I’m fit, if the question is “Can I run a mile in six minutes?”, the answer is “not in my wildest dreams”. But, if you want to ask whether I could walk three miles, yeah I can do that. So, I’m fit enough for one, but not for the other.
So, competency, if you will, I think takes less in the case of say, a power of attorney or simple document, and, a higher level of competency, because there’s more things involved that have to be decided in making out a will, or a living trust. The other interesting thing about that is that competency is judged at the time of signing. That’s really important because, particularly with people with Alzheimer’s, they’ll have good days and bad days; good times of day, particularly morning, and not so good times of day, particularly evening, sundowner syndrome.
So as long as somebody is “with it” at the time that they sign the document, they’ve met the test of competency, even though if you had met with them yesterday they wouldn’t have, if you had met with them toward evening that same day they wouldn’t have. It’s just, are they competent at the time that they’ve signed the document. Thanks!
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