Can Someone with Dementia Inherit Money?

Dementia is a progressive neurological disorder that primarily affects older individuals, impairing their cognitive abilities and daily functioning. As people age, concerns about financial matters become increasingly important, including the question of whether individuals with dementia can inherit money. In this blog post, I will talk about the legal and ethical considerations surrounding inheritance and dementia, shedding light on the complexities of this topic.

Legal Capacity and Testamentary Capacity

senior man in a corporate suit in office setting

In the context of inheritance, legal capacity refers to an individual’s ability to make decisions and enter into legal contracts. Testamentary capacity specifically addresses a person’s ability to create or modify a will. It is essential to understand that the presence of dementia does not automatically mean that an individual lacks legal or testamentary capacity.

For instance, if a person with early-stage dementia is deemed to have sufficient mental clarity, they can still possess the legal capacity to manage their financial affairs and execute a will. However, as dementia progresses, the ability to comprehend and make informed decisions may become impaired, raising concerns about testamentary capacity.

Assessing Testamentary Capacity

The determination of testamentary capacity can be a complex process that involves several factors. Courts generally consider the following principles when evaluating the capacity of someone with dementia to inherit money:

Understanding the nature and extent of their assets

A person with dementia should have a reasonable comprehension of their property and financial holdings.

Knowledge of the potential beneficiaries

It is crucial for the individual to be aware of who may stand to inherit their assets and understand their relationship to these beneficiaries.

Appreciating the consequences of the distribution

The person should understand the implications and effects of the decisions they make regarding the distribution of their assets.

To illustrate, let’s consider a scenario where an individual with advanced dementia expresses their intention to modify their will, excluding a close family member as a beneficiary. If it can be demonstrated that the person does not understand the implications of this decision or lacks awareness of the beneficiary’s relationship, it may be challenging to establish their testamentary capacity.

Legal Protections and Safeguards

The legal system acknowledges the vulnerability of individuals with dementia and has established safeguards to protect their interests. These measures aim to prevent financial exploitation and ensure that their assets are managed appropriately.

Power of Attorney

Granting a power of attorney allows someone to act on behalf of a person with dementia, making financial decisions and managing their affairs according to their best interests.


In cases where an individual lacks the capacity to make informed decisions, the court may appoint a guardian to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf.

Consider a situation where a person with dementia has a trusted family member acting as their power of attorney. This appointed individual would have the authority to manage their financial affairs, including the inheritance they may receive, while adhering to their best interests and ensuring financial security.

Ethical Considerations and Challenges

When it comes to inheritance and dementia, ethical concerns may arise. Family dynamics, competing interests, and questions of fairness can create complex situations.

Undue Influence

The potential for manipulation or coercion is an ethical issue that must be addressed. Individuals with dementia may be particularly susceptible to undue influence, which can result in changes to their will that do not reflect their true intentions.

Equitable Distribution

Determining an equitable distribution of assets among heirs can be challenging, especially when one or more beneficiaries are affected by dementia. Balancing the needs of individuals with dementia while ensuring fairness to other family members requires careful consideration.

Let’s consider a scenario where a person with dementia intends to leave the majority of their assets to a caregiver who has provided exceptional support. While this may seem reasonable, it is important to assess whether the individual truly comprehends the implications of their decision and ensure that other potential beneficiaries are not unfairly excluded.

Should a person with Dementia inherit money? Is it safe to do so?

senior person working with a phone and a tablet computer

When considering whether a person with dementia should inherit money, several factors must be carefully evaluated. Dementia is a progressive neurological disorder that affects cognitive functions, including memory, reasoning, and decision-making abilities

It is crucial to determine the individual’s level of impairment and their ability to manage their financial affairs. While it is not inherently unsafe for a person with dementia to inherit money, precautions should be taken to ensure their well-being and safeguard their interests.

Firstly, it is essential to assess the individual’s capacity to make sound financial decisions. Dementia can vary in its severity, with some individuals experiencing mild cognitive impairment while others may have advanced stages of the condition. 

In cases where the person with dementia is still capable of understanding and managing their finances with appropriate support, inheriting money may be reasonable. For instance, if the individual has a power of attorney or a trusted family member who can oversee their financial matters, they may be able to inherit money without significant risk.

However, if the person with dementia lacks the capacity to handle their financial affairs independently, inheriting a substantial amount of money could pose risks. Impaired decision-making abilities could make them vulnerable to financial exploitation or mismanagement of their assets. 

For example, they may fall victim to scams or make impulsive and unwise financial choices. In such situations, it is advisable to establish legal safeguards, such as appointing a guardian or creating a trust to manage their inheritance, ensuring that their best interests are protected.

Moreover, the impact of inheriting money on a person with dementia’s quality of life should be considered. While financial resources can enhance their care and well-being, excessive wealth without proper oversight can have adverse consequences. Unscrupulous individuals may take advantage of their vulnerability, leading to financial abuse. 

Additionally, sudden wealth can create undue stress and confusion for someone already grappling with the challenges of dementia. It is crucial to strike a balance between providing necessary resources for their care and ensuring they are not exposed to undue risks or burdens.

What kind of challenges a person with Dementia might face with inheriting money?

One of the primary challenges a person with dementia may face when inheriting money is comprehending the complexities of the inheritance process. Legal and financial matters can be intricate and overwhelming, even for individuals without cognitive impairments. 

However, for someone with dementia, understanding legal documents, such as wills, trusts, or probate proceedings, can be especially challenging. The individual may struggle to grasp the implications of the inherited assets, the tax implications, or the intricacies of managing a large sum of money. This lack of comprehension can lead to confusion and anxiety, making it difficult for them to make informed decisions regarding their inheritance.

Furthermore, dementia can impair the person’s ability to assess their financial situation accurately. They may have difficulties understanding their current financial obligations, such as outstanding debts, bills, or ongoing expenses. 

As a result, they might struggle to prioritize their financial needs and make appropriate allocations for their inheritance. For example, they may overlook important payments or fail to plan for long-term care costs, which are common in dementia cases. This lack of financial awareness can have significant consequences, including financial instability and vulnerability to exploitation.

Additionally, ensuring the money inherited by a person with dementia is used appropriately can be a considerable challenge. Dementia can affect judgment and decision-making abilities, potentially leading to poor financial choices. 

For instance, the individual may fall victim to financial scams or fraudulent schemes targeting vulnerable individuals. They may also make impulsive purchases or engage in reckless spending due to diminished impulse control. These behaviors can deplete their inheritance rapidly and jeopardize their financial well-being.

To mitigate these challenges, it is crucial to provide appropriate support and guidance to individuals with dementia who inherit money. Family members or trusted advisors can help by engaging in open and honest communication about financial matters, simplifying complex concepts, and assisting in managing financial affairs. 

Establishing safeguards, such as setting up a durable power of attorney or appointing a financial guardian, can also be beneficial in protecting the person’s financial interests.


The question of whether someone with dementia can inherit money is complex and depends on various legal, ethical, and capacity considerations. While individuals with dementia may have the legal and testamentary capacity to inherit money early in their diagnosis, the progression of the disease may impact their decision-making abilities. 

Legal protections and safeguards exist to protect individuals with dementia, ensuring their financial interests are managed appropriately. Ethical challenges, such as undue influence and equitable distribution, further complicate the issue. Ultimately, open discussions, transparency, and legal guidance are crucial when navigating inheritance matters involving individuals with dementia.

Do you have any personal experiences or insights regarding inheritance and dementia? I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. Let’s continue the conversation and share our thoughts on this important topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *