Would having an elderly dementia patient sign legal papers be elder abuse?

Asked 5 months ago - Gales Ferry, CT

I'm not sure how bad the court would say she is but she's getting bad in a day to day way.

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  1. Scott D Rosenberg

    Contributor Level 15

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    Answered . I'm not sure what you mean by "being elder abuse." A person with advanced dementia likely does not have the capacity to make binding legal contracts, or to create a power of attorney or have an accepted application for a voluntary conservatorship. Such agreements are called "voidable" because no court has established the extent of the incapacity. That said, people with lesser degrees of dementia can enter perfectly lawful arrangements, as can individuals who are more lucid some times than others. The only way to completely bar these arrangements is to apply for an involuntary conservatorship, in which case the probate court makes a finding of incapacity that then renders them legally unable to make contracts and sign legal papers.

    As for elder abuse, this is a complex area of law. Normally, it's a neighbor, friend, or other family member that contacts elder protective services about potential abuse and neglect situations, but no matter who calls, including a dementia patient herself, they will investigate, offer some stop-gap services if necessary, and involve the police or attorney general's office if they believe there is criminal conduct in play. If the subject of an investigation is clearly incapacitated, but not conserved, EPS would ask that person to sign papers to go forward with any offer of assistance or referral for services, as they don't have a legal representative to sign for them. Perhaps this is the situation you are describing?

    Attorney Rosenberg is admitted to practice in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and currently practices in South-... more
  2. Lawrence A Friedman

    Contributor Level 18

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    Answered . Not necessarily. Elder abuse involves physical, emotional, or financial abuse of a vulnerable adult or vulnerable disabled person. A person with dementia can be competent to sign legal papers such as leasing a car or making a will or POA or not competent to do those things depending on the extent of dementia.

    Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law... more
  3. Michael Leo Potter

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    Contributor Level 19

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    Answered . Legal documents have consequences in the real world. Dementia patients often don't have sufficient legal 'capacity' to really know & understand the consequences of documents they may be asked to sign. That is why a Conservatorship might be necessary. I'd recommend you sit down with an Estate Planning attorney. See 'Find-A-Lawyer' at the top of this Page.

    My answer is based on the limited facts presented. It doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship. Use the ‘... more

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