When you are working on an estate plan, one of the things that you have to think about is that you could lose your right to make changes to this plan if you ever lose your mental capacity. Your mental capacity is what determines if you have the right to make decisions for yourself or if someone else needs to step in to make them for you.
By definition, mental capacity means to have good understanding and comprehension of the situation you’re in. For example, if you receive a legal document and read it, will you be able to comprehend what you’ve read, explain it to someone else or ask questions about it? If you receive a document that you can’t understand and you are unable to remember what you read upon finishing it, for example, then you may not have the mental capacity to make a decision about that paperwork.
Knowing who is mentally capable is important in estate planning
It is essential to know who does or does not have mental capacity during estate planning. Why? Someone who doesn’t have good mental capacity could make changes or decisions that they do not understand. For instance, someone with Alzheimer’s disease might ask to make changes to the will after speaking with their “child.” Later, it might be realized that they mistook a nurse or caretaker for their child and made changes that benefitted that person instead of keeping the estate plan as it was before.
This kind of situation occurs more often than it should, which is why regular medical appointments and good communication about your mental health is vital as you age. Your family, as well as your attorney, can help you protect your estate with that knowledge.
Make sure to choose the right power of attorney
When someone doesn’t have the mental capacity to make decisions, it is usually the person with power of attorney who steps in to help. That’s why choosing a person you trust for that role is essential. That way, you’ll know that you wishes will not only be understood but also be carried out on your behalf when you can’t state them yourself.