Can Someone With Signs of Dementia Sign Legal Documents in Virginia?

Millions of individuals are affected by memory care issues in their lifetime. Unfortunately, it is usually after a medical diagnosis of dementia that many families begin to think about estate planning. This is a mistake and why it is so critically important to get your estate plan done before a crisis as a person can lose the legal ability to create an estate plan here in Virginia that truly honors their wishes and protects their assets.

This is especially true when dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.  If the cognitive impairment is severe, it is unlikely that the person in question will be able to make legal or financial decisions on his or her behalf.  But, like all areas of the law, the real answer as to whether the person can sign documents is “it depends.”

In order for legal documents to be valid, the person signing them must have “testamentary capacity.” This means that he or she must fully understand the implications of what is being signed. So, even if your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, they can still execute legal documents as long as they:

  • Can understand the nature and extent of their property
  • Can remember their relatives and descendants
  • Are able to articulate who should inherit their property
  • Can understand what they are signing
  • Can understand how all these things relate and come together to form a plan

In some instances, a verification from a physician about the individual’s competence may be required.  If you have questions about a loved one’s competency, we may be able to help. Please contact our Fairfax County Estate and Special Needs Planning  law firm at 571-328-5795 for more information.