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Questioning Mental Competency?

Posted by Chad Seiter | Dec 15, 2021 | 0 Comments

Does Your Kentucky Estate Plan Need a Letter of Competency?

Many Kentucky seniors understand the importance of drafting a last will and testament. Just as important is making the necessary updates and changes to your will, and destroying previous copies to avoid a dispute over the true and correct version in the future. If you plan on making changes to your Kentucky will or estate plan that significantly affect a potential beneficiary, are you concerned that they may challenge those updates at a later date, or after your passing? One way to challenge a will is to question a senior's mental and cognitive competency when he or she signs a legal document. So, how can this be combatted?

Why Would a Senior's Competency be Called into Question?

Sometimes during a senior's lifetime, but often after their death, their beneficiaries and loved ones may dispute about their share of the inheritance or trust proceeds. Relatives often argue that the decedent or grantor (person making the estate planning documents) was not of sound mind when drafting the documents or making changes. They call into question the grantor's mental competency. If they proceed further, they may file a petition with the appropriate district court disputing the will or trust provisions. This type of proceeding can be lengthy and painful for all parties involved. If an elder loved one's competency is questioned while they are still living, a loved one may attempt to pursue an elder guardianship or conservatorship on the elder's behalf, with or without their consent. This triggers a chain of events including a disability trial and interdisciplinary team evaluation of the senior. The trial is held to determine if the person in question is legally disabled. This can potentially be avoided if a letter of competency is drafted.

How Can a Letter of Competency Protect You

A letter of competency is a legal document that prevents a future challenge over the authenticity and legitimacy of your estate planning documents. It should be drafted concurrently with your last will and testament, power of attorney, trust documents, and healthcare proxy documents. Drafting a letter of competency at the same time removes any potential doubts about your state of mind or cognitive ability at the time of drafting and signing your estate plan documents.

 Preparing a letter of competency is a relatively simple process. You would need to make an appointment with your family doctor or primary care physician who would conduct a physical exam for the purposes of evaluating your physical and mental health. If you have a pre-existing neurological condition or a mental health condition, you may also want to obtain a written statement from your neurologist or therapist certifying your cognitive health. This statement would be incorporated into a letter of competency which would be signed and notarized in the presence of two impartial witnesses.

Contact Northern Kentucky Estate Planning Attorneys at Darpel Elder Law

Estate planning is a fluid process. It is not a “one and done” scenario. Protecting your life's work takes time. Having a candid discussion about your needs with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you find the solution that is right for you. Our team at Darpel Elder Law is dedicated to helping our clients through times of crisis and resolving issues before they become problems. We want to help you identify potential issues now to protect your estate later. Call us today to schedule a comprehensive consultation and discuss your options.

About the Author

Chad Seiter

Attorney at Law


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