This excellent article published in The American Journal of Psychiatry (164:722-727, May 2007) gives advice on how to document your client’s capacity. Check it out:
Assessment of Testamentary Capacity and Vulnerability to Undue Influence by Kenneth I. Shulman, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., Carole A. Cohen, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., Felice C. Kirsh, LL.B., Ian M. Hull, B.A., LL.B., and Pamela R. Champine, J.D., LL.M.
The authors state:
"We can expect challenges to testamentary capacity to increase during the coming decades as the number of older adults increases. The increasing complexity of modern families, where asset disposition is sensitive and complicated, may lead to feelings of rejection and injustice and result in more challenges. Finally, the high prevalence of cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults creates a fertile environment for challenges to wills. It therefore behooves psychiatrists and other experts to be aware of the legal, medical, and psychiatric issues that underlie the assessment of testamentary capacity and the role of undue influence—two concepts that are inextricably linked and often combined in legal challenges to wills. "
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"The assessment of testamentary capacity and its interrelationship with vulnerability to undue influence bring together the medical and legal domains. The psychiatric and medical experts’ role is primarily to help lawyers and the courts make the best determination of testamentary capacity and to assess the role of undue influence. As the number of older people increases in the coming years, clinicians will likely be involved in these determinations with increasing frequency. Research in this area is needed, and it should involve a collaboration of the medical and legal domains to provide clearer guidelines for the assessment of these complex issues in individual cases (26). Increased awareness within the legal profession of the importance of establishing testamentary capacity at the time of the execution of a will may lead to a greater demand for contemporaneous assessments and possibly avoid a court challenge at the time the will is brought for probate. Proposals to develop "lifetime capacity assessments" for this purpose merit exploration."
You can download a pdf copy of the article for free. Click here.