About this Research Topic
As the growth of the population aged 65 and older is projected to be one of the most substantial demographic trends in history and together with the most dramatic increases occurring in developing countries, geriatric clinicians will be regularly consulted for opinion regarding an individual’s capacity to make a will. Testamentary capacity has been defined as a legal term to describe a person’s capacity to form or alter his or her living will in the absence of undue influence. This capacity typically involves appreciation of the character and extent of their devised property, understanding of the nature of the relationship between himself and the natural objects of his bounty, and appreciation of the nature and effect of the testamentary act itself.
For individuals with severe cognitive and psychiatric impairment, the reduced capacity to make decision is evident. However, testamentary capacity among individuals with mild or moderate cognitive impairment has been mixed: some patients with mild cognitive impairment may be incapable of will making, while other patients with moderate cognitive impairment may have testamentary capacity. Further, testamentary capacity is independent of the diagnosis alone. When considering testamentary capacity, one might ask themselves whether the patient had the task-specific capacity to execute a will in the context of a situation-specific environment. Furthermore, with increasingly complex modern family structures (e.g., multiple marriages and step-children from these relationships), together with a projected largest transfer of wealth in human history about to occur in the next 30 years, more standardized assessment procedures for testamentary capacity will be valuable for the individual, his/her family, and society as a whole.
Considering the financial ramifications of reduced cognitive abilities among some older adults, the need for research studies to address older persons’ testamentary abilities is critical to promoting and maintain optimal well-being among this significant portion of the population. While the decisions about legal competencies are ultimately legal judgements enforced by regional laws, the process of determining testamentary capacity is mainly made outside the courtroom by clinicians and attorneys working with the elderly populations. The purpose of this research topic is to facilitate a body of research from various disciplines in gerontology (e.g., neuropsychologists, neuroscientists). Review articles and original research reports investigating normal healthy adults and patients with neurodegenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), which explore testamentary capacity and its intersection of law, mental health, and aging, are welcome.
Keywords: Testamentary Capacity, Undue Influence, Gerontology, Older Adults, Financial Decision-Making
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