Mental Capacity Is a Growing Challenge for Professionals Working with Retirees


Having sufficient mental competence to make a will or financial decision for oneself, family and business is a relatively low standard that requires less mental capacity than competence to execute a contract (wills, unlike contracts, have no adversarial interest), consent to treatment, or to stand trial.

Dementia associated with Alzheimer disease is becoming increasingly prevalent, and it may lead to an increase in the number of contested wills.

  • The Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Revised Cambridge Examination for Mental Disorders of the Elderly (CAMDEX-R) are equally accurate predictors of testamentary capacity.

  • Mild cognitive impairment on the MMSE (score of 20 to 26) was associated with a clinical finding of testamentary capacity in 93% of cases; moderate to severe cognitive impairment on the MMSE was more closely associated with lack of testamentary capacity.