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Lombard estate planning attorneyThe World Health Organization estimates that about 50 million people throughout the world currently suffer from dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for about 60-70 percent of all dementia cases. Watching a loved one with dementia suffer from memory loss and cognitive impairment can be heartbreaking, especially if that loved one is your spouse. If your husband or wife has dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or another health issue that affects cognitive function, you may worry about his or her ability to make important decisions. One way you may obtain the ability to make decisions on behalf of your spouse is through legal guardianship.  

Types of Guardianships in Illinois

When a person cannot communicate his or her needs or make rational decisions, a loved one may choose to establish guardianship so that he or she can make decisions on the person’s behalf. The Illinois Probate Act describes several types of guardianship including limited guardianship, plenary guardianship, guardianship of a person, guardianship of the estate, and more. If your spouse has dementia but is still able to make some decisions on his or her own, a limited guardianship may be appropriate. If you become a “limited guardian,” you will be permitted to make any decisions about your spouse’s finances, medical treatment, and personal care that he or she cannot make on his or her own, but the scope of those decisions will generally be limited by the court that grants the guardianship.

If your spouse has significant impairment, a plenary guardianship will allow you to make all of the decisions about his or her finances and care. Guardianship of the estate is used to ensure that a disabled person’s financial affairs are properly managed. If you are unsure as to what guardianship is appropriate for your particular situation, speak with an estate planning attorney to receive personalized guidance.

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DuPage County estate planning attorneyIn Illinois, wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents must meet certain criteria in order to be valid. In order for the court to uphold a will, the person who created the will, called the testator, must fully understand the provisions contained in the will and the consequences of these provisions. If a testator was forced, under undue influence, or could not comprehend what he or she was doing when he or she signed the will, the will may not be legally binding. If the validity of the will iscontested and the court finds that the testator did not consent to the directions contained in the will, it could be thrown out completely. If you have a loved one with dementia who wishes to draft a will, you will need to take special precautions to ensure that the will is legally enforceable.

Testamentary Capacity Explained

The term “testamentary capacity” refers to a testator’s mental clarity and understanding. Testamentary capacity is also sometimes called “sound mind and memory” or “disposing mind and memory.” Testators as presumed to have testamentary capacity unless there is convincing evidence to the contrary. If your loved one wishes to create a will or other estate planning document and he or she suffers from dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, or another illness that affects cognition, this could be grounds for his or her testamentary capacity to come into question.

Ensuring That Your Loved One Has Testamentary Capacity

Your loved one deserves to have his or her final wishes followed. In order to ensure that the will is not considered invalid due to testamentary capacity concerns, you should ensure that your loved one meets Illinois criteria for proving testamentary capacity. The Illinois Probate Act of 1975, states that an adult has the authority to draft a will if he or she “is of sound mind and memory.” Illinois appeals court case Beyers v. Billingsley addressed exactly what constitutes sound mind and memory in 1977. There are three conditions that must be met in order for a testator to have sufficient testamentary capacity. A person is of sound mind and memory for the purposes of estate planning if he or she can:

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