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Dad signed legal document while in hospital to change part of his will

Chippewa Falls, WI |

My question can you legally sign a document while under doctor's care in the hospital while on morphine drip and other pain meds even if the hospital is stating he was coherent at the time? We live in Wisconsin.

Attorney Answers 4


That will depend on his mental state at the exact moment he signed.

Competence can get a bit complicated and messy; but just because a person is "coherent" does not necessarily mean they were legally "competent". So whether he was competent will depend on exactly what he was signing, if he knew what he was signing, what rights he was giving up and to whom. So there is no "clear" answer without getting into the fine and minute details.

I'd contact an attorney and get into depth over what happened.

Matthew Johnson phone# 206.747.0313 is licensed in the State of Washington and performs bankruptcy, short sale negotiations, and estate planning in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. The response does not constitute specific legal advice, which would require a full inquiry by the attorney into the complete background of the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter; rather, it is intended to be general legal information based on the limited information provided by the inquirer; it This response also does not constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, which can only be established after a conflict of interest evaluation is completed, your case is accepted, and a fee agreement is signed. Johnson Legal Group, PLLC

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Legal competence to create a will is a low threshold. A person can be legally competent to create a will if they have knowledge of who their family is, and a knowledge of what they have to give away. Just those two things. Pain medications can bring competence into question, but if doctors say that someone was coherent, that will generally indicate competence.

There is another question that may affect the validity of the will, and that is undue influence. If someone else was influencing a person (by force or threat) to put certain things in their will, that can invalidate the will.

Both incompetence and undue influence are hard to prove. If you think one of them occurred, you would have the burden to prove they occurred. this is very hard to do.

Any advice given through the Avvo site is for hypothetical purposes only, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. The advice is without warranty and you should not rely on this advice without consulting a Wisconsin attorney directly who knows the particulars of your case.

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I agree with the other responses and particularly with Attorney Krause. We had a situation where a woman was in the ER, in shock. She was legally blind and did not have her glasses. She was legally deaf and did not have her hearing aids. She was intubated and could not speak. The lawyer who came in to the hospital said that she "read the Will" to the woman and communicated by squeezing her hand. The Will was littered with typos, including reference to a husband, and this woman was not married. So presumably, if the Will had been READ, there would have been a lot of hand-squeezing. The Will was signed either right before morphine was given or right after.

Result: valid Will.
So you can see, these kinds of cases are tough. To have any chance of overturning this, you will need a very skilled probate litigation attorney. Best of luck to you!

James Frederick

*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.

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If you wish to contest it, send me an email and I'll help you.

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