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Will Changed After Dementia Diagnosis Raises Red Flags

When might a police commission get involved with estate litigation? When a new will created after a patient was diagnosed with dementia leaves nearly $3 million to a previously-unnamed beneficiary ... who just happens to be a police sergeant.

In 2009 Geraldine Webber made a will to divide her estate. This will left one-fourth of her estate to each of Portsmouth, New Hampshire's fire and police departments. In addition, a couple of charities were each designated to receive $500,000. Webber's disabled grandson also was named a beneficiary.

In 2010, Webber was diagnosed with dementia. In 2012 she made a new will, giving $2.7 million to police officer, Sgt. Aaron Goodwin. He was not named as an heir in the original will. In an article titled "Police Commission authorizes probe of Goodwin's inheritance," Seacoast Online provides the full story. The police commission has announced that once litigation over the estate ends, it will officially look into the circumstances of Goodwin's inheritance.

While it is not common for a police commission to look into a single inheritance, the underlying issue in the case is quite common. When someone who has been diagnosed with dementia creates a new estate plan litigation frequently ensues over its terms, especially if the terms of the plan have been changed substantially. Why? Because a person must be mentally capable of creating a will, even though a person with dementia can make a new will. In some cases it is necessary because of changing circumstances. However, it is important that those who stand to inherit under the old will are informed of the new circumstances and why the will is being changed. Taking that key step can help to avoid costly litigation.

When making a will or making a new will, be sure to consult with qualified legal counsel sooner rather than later.

For more information, please visit my estate planning website.

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