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Can someone with dementia still make a Will?

17 September

Can someone with dementia still make a Will?

Receiving a diagnosis of dementia brings with it not just emotional upset for you and your loved ones, but also a realisation that practical arrangements need to be considered too. But can someone who has received a diagnosis of dementia make a Will?

Many people living with the early stages of the condition will want to consider making a Will or, if they already have one, update it to ensure it reflects what they want to happen. A Will is an incredibly significant document.  It speaks for the person making it after they have died and records their final wishes.  It is therefore only right that anyone making one must be capable of understanding what a Will does, the extent of their assets and who might expect to be included, and that their decision-making is not affected by any sort of disorder.  This is known as having “testamentary capacity”, or put another way: capacity to make a Will.

People sometimes assume that once someone has received a diagnosis of dementia they are no longer able to make a Will.  However it is not always as straightforward as that.  As anyone who has a friend or loved one who is living with dementia will know, matters of capacity are not always black and white – there can be a whole spectrum of grey in between.

This means that extra care is needed when a solicitor is taking instructions from someone who is living with the symptoms of dementia, whether diagnosed or not.  There are many reasons why we strongly recommend using a solicitor when making a Will, but it’s especially important to do so if there’s any doubt about capacity.   A specialist solicitor will have the skills and experience to assess this delicate issue if required and should offer appropriate support to help the person concerned to make a Will if that’s what’s needed.  That support might be as simple as meeting with the person to take their instructions at the time of day when they’re at their best or visiting them in their own home.  They can also instruct a suitable medical expert to assess capacity if necessary, which can provide valuable evidence if the Will is later challenged. 

So the simple answer is that living with dementia does not necessarily prevent someone from making a Will – but extra care needs to be taken to ensure that they are truly still able to make a decision about what the Will should say and to understand its implications.  Any doubt can lead to costly and unwelcome disputes later down the line.

We have a team of experienced Solicitors who, through the Alzheimer’s Society, are registered Dementia Friends. If you or a loved one need advice about making or amending a Will, please get in touch.

We also have experience of helping people concerned that someone they know - who suffers from dementia - is being financially exploited or adversely influenced. For confidential advice that you can trust, get in touch.