In this Elder Law Minute, Wes Coulson explains how competency can depend on a variety of different factors.
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!
Today I want to talk about what makes a person competent to sign legal documents. Well, in the old days, it used to be a yes or no, all or nothing, proposition. Could they pass a competency test, or not? The more modern thinking, and, I think, better advised thinking, you first ask the question, well competent to do what, or sign what? Just as, if you will, if you were asking a question is this person physically fit, or not? They might be able to walk 2 blocks, fit enough to do that, but not run a mile.
So, in this case, there are some documents, for instance powers of attorney, where as long as you understand the basic nature of it and can decide who you would want to be in charge of things for you, you probably have enough capacity to do that. But, if we’re talking about a will, or a living trust, or entering into a contract, that requires that you be able to make more choices. That you be able to think about, okay, what do I have, who do I want to get what, what’s my plan of distribution, and the more complex the situation, the higher the level of capacity.
Another thing is that it’s capacity at the time that you sign. So, for instance, if you have somebody with Alzheimer’s who has good days, bad days, good times of days, especially earlier in the day, and bad times of day, they meet the tested capacity as long as they meet it at the time of signing the document. In those cases, we do this often, we are looking for the times we can say, you know what, Joe is really with it this morning, this is a good time to get these documents in place. Thanks!
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