La Quinta Probate Attorney Explains the Need for Competency When Signing Your Will

Everyone needs an estate plan. However, too often we get calls to do an emergency house call because Mom or Dad received a bad prognosis and doesn’t have any estate planning documents in place. While we endeavor to accomplish the needs of these individuals, sometimes we simply cannot. California law requires that an individual have testamentary capacity to sign a Will or Trust. A person is not mentally competent if she or he doesn’t understand the nature of the document, cannot remember the nature and types of his or her property, and doesn’t recall his or her relations to living relatives.

A dementia diagnosis does not automatically prohibit someone from having testamentary capacity. However, it is crucial to have your estate planning documents in place before you become severely ill or disabled. Children whose parents suffer from a memory disorder should try and determine if Mom or Dad has sufficient planning before the disorder gets worse. This does not mean that children should have access to Mom or Dad’s will, but an honest conversation with parents about the state of their affairs is certainly prudent. Too often we have clients come in trying to sort of their parents’ estate because they were too embarrassed to talk to Mom or Dad while they were living.

State Bar of California
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