Aging clients are an inevitable part of the landscape these days. People are living longer than ever.  That’s great, but age brings risks to one’s mental capacity.  And those risks put a burden on you the business professional to be aware of where to draw the line.  When is it just not safe to rely on what an older client tells you to do?
Bear in mind that by age 85 one in three people will have Alzheimer’s Disease. This brain-destroying and progressive condition comes on slowly in most folks and begins to take its toll of judgment about financial matters quite early in the disease process. The person might seem perfectly fine in social discourse.  That is not a guarantee of financial capacity.

Lawyers in particular, who are used to a standard that people should be allowed to do what they want until someone proves that they no longer have capacity can be particularly fooled by Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.  Lawyers may think of financial capacity as being the same as testamentary capacity. It definitely is not the same.
Testamentary capacity is rather simple.  It is that which is recognized in law as sufficient for the making of a will.  That is explained as “ sufficient mind and memory to intelligently understand the nature of business in which he is engaged, to comprehend generally the nature and extent of property which constitutes his estate and which he intend to dispose of, and to recollect the objects of his bounty.” 
In other words, a person needs to understand, for example, that he has a house and a bank account, and that he wants to leave it to his wife and children. It is quite general and a rather low standard for making a will.
Financial capacity on the other hand comprises a broad range of conceptual, pragmatic and judgment abilities, used across a spectrum of everyday activities.  It has been defined in general terms as “the capacity to manage money and financial assets in ways that meet a person’s needs and which are consistent with his/her values and self-interest.” (Marson, Herbert and Solomon, 2011).
Financial capacity has been studied extensively by Dr. Daniel Marson, J.D., Ph.D, is a professor of neurology in the Department of Neurology and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center, University of Alabama at Birmingham.  He breaks down financial capacity into nine separate domains.  (Go to our webinar at to learn about these domains in greater detail.)
What this means for you in your everyday work is this:  aging clients have many risks in their ability to make competent financial decisions and to understand transactions.  You need to look for the warning signs that capacity could be impaired.  Every older client is at risk and risk increases with age. 
We at are here to help keep you out of trouble in your interacting with aging clients.  If you have the right information, you can avoid costly mistakes that lead to lawsuits, against both you and your client.  We urge you to be as informed as possible about the issue of diminished financial capacity.  Watch our free Quick VIDEO on seven warning signs of financial abuse.
Contact us today for a private consultation on any problem client or issue that makes you wonder about your client’s ability to fully understand the business you are doing with her.  We offer our expertise in aging from a psychological, healthcare and legal perspective in one place.  
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney
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