The right expert can make a difference in your case.
Dr. Hoffman a geriatric neuropsychologist with a forensic practice that focuses on the assessment of capacity, undue influence, conservatorships, and elder abuse in older adults. This includes the evaluation of testamentary capacity, contractual capacity, capacity to manage one’s finances, capacity to make medical decisions, & the capacity to live independently. She specializes in the differential diagnosis of the various forms of dementia and their influence on cognitive ability and has testified on issues of capacity and undue influence.
Capacity: Older adults with intact attention and good verbal skills can appear to be more cognitively intact than is actually the case. Since capacity is task specific, a thorough neuropsychological evaluation can point to areas of strength and weakness, telling the referring attorney whether or not their client has the capacity to perform a specific act. This might be the capacity to make or change a will, the capacity to manage one’s own finances, or the capacity to enter into a contract.
A contemporaneous evaluation of testamentary or contractual capacity can be particularly useful in avoiding expensive probate litigation in the future. This can bring peace of mind to a client when family dynamics are challenging. In a retrospective analysis of testamentary capacity, a forensic neuropsychologist is like a detective. In a psychological or neuropsychological autopsy, evidence is gathered through a thorough review of medical records, court documents, collateral interviews, and the person’s level of functioning at the time significant documents were signed. Testamentary capacity has a low bar as per California Probate Code § 6100.5.
California Probate Code § 811 lays out the guidelines for the evaluation of contractual capacity. This is a standard that is well suited to a neuropsychological evaluation which can be used to assess the following areas of cognition and functioning:
(1) Alertness and attention, including, but not limited to, the following:
(A) Level of arousal or consciousness.
(B) Orientation to time, place, person, and situation.
(C) Ability to attend and concentrate.
(2) Information processing, including, but not limited to, the following:
(A) Short- and long-term memory, including immediate recall.
(B) Ability to understand or communicate with others, either verbally or otherwise.
(C) Recognition of familiar objects and familiar persons.
(D) Ability to understand and appreciate quantities.
(E) Ability to reason using abstract concepts.
(F) Ability to plan, organize, and carry out actions in one’s own rational self-interest.
(G) Ability to reason logically.
(3) Thought processes. Deficits in these functions may be demonstrated by the presence of the following:
(A) Severely disorganized thinking.
(D) Uncontrollable, repetitive, or intrusive thoughts.
(4) Ability to modulate mood and affect.
Undue Influence: Undue influence has been defined by California Welfare and Institutions Code §15610.70 and includes the vulnerability of the victim, whether or not the alleged influencer had authority over the elder, actions and tactics taken to influence the elder, and the result of the influence. A lack of mental capacity is not necessary to render a person vulnerable to undue influence.
I developed the FRAUD Model to identify the elements of undue influence in the Welfare and Institutions code: Financial loss or exploitation, Relationship of trust, At-risk elder, Unjust outcome, and Deception or the actions and tactics a perpetrator uses to commit undue influence.
Elder Financial Abuse: Older adults are particularly susceptible to financial abuse and successful scammers are highly skilled in convincing them to part with their money or valuable assets. It is estimated that between $2.9 billion and $36 billion dollars are exploited from vulnerable older adults in the United States each year. Even older adults with intact cognition are susceptible to scam artists for a variety of reasons.
A rate sheet and CV are available upon request.