Proper insight and judgement is extremely important when it comes to writing a proper testament and eventually signing it. It regularly happens that a will is contested on the basis of impaired cognitive abilities.
If there is any doubt about the patient’s ability to sign a will then it is best to have the patient assessed by a psychiatrist and sometimes a second opinion may also be indicated. The psychiatrist should indicate in writing that judgement, insight and cognitive ability is good enough for drawing up and signing a testament.
In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, a patient can still think coherently and can draw up and sign a will. It is during this time that consideration should be given for drawing up a final will. Discuss the situation with the patient and if necessary obtain help from your psychiatrist.
The contents of a will can also be examined to determine whether it was drawn up by a person of sound mind. The contents must be appropriate and sensible. Usually close relatives and friends benefit the most from the bequeathment and not distant relatives and strangers. The will must indicate that the patient was able to fully comprehend the extent of his estate. He must know what he owns and how much he is worth. A lawyer can certainly help to determine the appropriateness of a will.
Written by Dr Frans Hugo, MBChB, M.Med Psychiatry and Dr L. Van Wyk, MBChB, M. Med (Psych) from the Panorama Memory Clinic.
For more information visit: Dementia SA: http://www.dementiasa.org/ or Alzheimer’s South Africa: http://www.alzheimers.org.za