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Dementia doesn’t mean an end to will power! By Jeff Garrett – Legal Practice Director

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Families need to understand how the onset of dementia or Alzheimer`s disease can affect Wills and Powers of Attorney.

The onset of Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia can be difficult for families to cope with on a number of levels.

Nothing can be more difficult to deal with than seeing a previously healthy and intelligent, articulate family member struggling with their memory, speech and behavioural changes.

There is also an important legal issue involved when people suffer from any form of dementia and this relates to whether they have the capacity to make a Will or sign an Enduring Power of Attorney.

There is a common misunderstanding that if someone is diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease that they cannot make a Will or an Enduring Power of Attorney – nothing could be further from the truth.

Provided the onset of the disease is in its early stages and the person can still understand the issues involved with making a Will or Enduring Power of Attorney, a legally binding document can still be executed and acted upon.

There are different tests in relation to a Will and an Enduring Power of Attorney but basically you need to ensure that a lawyer specialising in this area is consulted and that you obtain an appropriate medical certificate or report from a doctor who has experience in these types of matters.

You need to be careful with people suffering from this form of illness as it can also have an effect on their decision-making capabilities.

Drastic changes to Wills in relations to beneficiaries, or the creation of new Wills by people suffering dementia often spark uproar in families that leads to litigation.

It is not uncommon to have elderly parents being taken to different law firms in order to change Wills and Powers of Attorney to favour certain family members.

It is important that family members are fair to their parents or grandparents and that they ensure they are properly looked after. If this is not done, the Adult Guardian or the Guardianship Tribunal can intervene.

For any enquiries regarding Attwood Marshall Lawyers Wills and Estates Department, please contact the Department Manager Donna Tolley, on direct line (07) 5506 8241 or by email on dtolley@attwoodmarshall.com.au

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