VaBar 2005 Capacity Handbook

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Slide1: 

Assessment of Older Adults With Diminished Capacity: A Handbook for Lawyers American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging andamp;  American Psychological Association 2005

Unavoidable capacity determinations outside the courtroom:: 

Unavoidable capacity determinations outside the courtroom: Does the client have the capacity to contract for my services? Does the client have the capacity to complete the legal transaction? Lawyers need a conceptually sound and consistent process for answering these questions. p. 1

Slide3: 

The lawyer’s assessment of capacity is a 'legal' assessment, involving: An initial assessment component and, if necessary, Use of a clinical consultation or formal evaluation by a clinician, and, A final legal judgment about capacity by the lawyer. p. 3

Slide4: 

Become familiar with three facets of diminished capacity: Ethical guidelines for assessing client capacity. (p. 2, 3, 8) Approaches to capacity in state guardianship and conservatorship laws. (p. 7-8) Standards of capacity for specific legal transactions. (p. 5-6)

A. Ethical GuidelinesMRPC 1.14 -- Client Under a Disability: 

A. Ethical Guidelines MRPC 1.14 -- Client Under a Disability 1.14(a) Says Act Normal… ...the lawyer shall, 'as far as reasonably possible, maintain a normal client-lawyer relationship.…' 1.14(b) Except when you can’t… Lawyer may take reasonably necessary protective action, including … seeking the appointment of a guardian…. But only if the 'lawyer reasonably believes that the client has diminished capacity, is at risk of substantial physical, financial or other harm unless action is taken and the client cannot adequately act in the client’s own interest. p. 2

Slide6: 

B. Tests of Incapacity Under State Guardianship Law: Mix ‘n Match Variations Disabling condition Functional behavior as to essential needs Cognitive functioning Finding that guardianship is necessary and is 'least restrictive alternative' p. 7-8

Mix ‘n Match: 

Mix ‘n Match Cognitive Test + Essential Needs test 1997 UGPPA: an individual who . . . is unable to receive and evaluated information or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to meet essential requirements of physical health, safety, or self-care, even with appropriate technological assistance. Example not in text

Mix ‘n MatchNorth Dakota: 

Mix ‘n Match North Dakota any adult person who is impaired by reason of mental illness, mental deficiency, physical illness or disability, or chemical dependency to the extent that the person lacks capacity to make or communicate responsible decisions concerning that person's matters of residence, education, medical treatment, legal affairs, vocation, finance, or other matters, or which incapacity endangers the person's health or safety. Disabling condition + Cognitive + Essential Needs Endangerment Example not in text

Mix ‘n MatchVirginia § 37.1‑134.6 : 

Mix ‘n Match Virginia § 37.1‑134.6 'Incapacitated person' means an adult who has been found by a court to be incapable of receiving and evaluating information effectively or responding to people, events, or environments to such an extent that the individual lacks the capacity to (i) meet the essential requirements for his health, care, safety, or therapeutic needs w/o the assistance or protection of a guardian or (ii) manage property or financial affairs or provide for his or her support or for the support of his legal dependents w/o the assistance or protection of a conservator Cognitive + Essential Needs (person) + Necessity or Essential needs (property) + Necessity Example not in text

C. Task Specific Legal Definitions: 

C. Task Specific Legal Definitions Testamentary Capacity requires that the client: (1) Understand the nature of the act of making a will. (2) Have a general understanding of the nature and extent of his or her property. (3) Have a general recognition of those persons who were 'the natural objects of his bounty.' (4) Understand the distribution scheme. (5) Appreciate all of the above elements in relation to each other. 38 AMJUR POF 3d 227 p. 5

Slide11: 

Contractual Capacity whether, at the time the instrument was executed, the grantor possessed sufficient mental capacity to understand the nature of the transaction and to agree to its provisions. Mental ability varies from one individual to another; therefore, no specific degree of mental acuteness is to be prescribed as the measure of one's capacity to execute a deed. And, when mental capacity is in issue, the outcome of every case must depend mainly on the facts surrounding the execution of the deed in question. Hill v. Brooks, 253 Va. 168, 175; 482 S.E.2d 816, 821 (1997) Majette p. IV-A-1

Slide12: 

Contractual Capacity Courts generally assess the party’s ability to understand the nature and effect of the act and the business being transacted   Accordingly, if the act or business being transacted is highly complicated, a higher level of understanding may be needed to understand its nature and effect, in contrast to a very simple contractual arrangement. Walsh, A., et al., Mental Capacity: Legal andamp; Medical Aspects of Assessment andamp; Treatment, 2d ed. (1994) p. 6

Slide13: 

Capacity to execute a Power of Attorney Same as Hill v. Brooks. Majette IV-A-4

Slide14: 

Donative Capacity Degree of capacity required to make a gift or conveyance is less than that required for the conduct of ordinary business. However, the capacity required to make a gift may be held greater than that required for testamentary purposes because a gift operates in the present….   The requisite capacity to make a gift is 'an intelligent perception and understanding of the dispositions made of property and the persons and objects one desires shall be the recipients of one's bounty.' 62 AMJUR POF 3d 197 p. 6

Slide15: 

Incapacity to Make a Healthcare Decision Uniform Health Care Decisions Act:   'Capacity' means an individual’s ability to understand the significant benefits, risks, and alternatives to proposed health care and to make and communicate a health‑care decision. p. 6

Slide16: 

Determine Diagnosis (causal element) Assess Behavioral functioning Assess Cognitive functioning Clinical Model p. 11

Slide17: 

p. 9

Before Assessment, Enhance: 

Before Assessment, Enhance Benchmark: the client’s own habitual or considered standards of behavior and values Interview Client Alone, engender trust Accommodate Sensory Changes Accommodate Cognitive Changes Presumption of Capacity must be overcome p. 27-30

Preliminary Assessment: 

Preliminary Assessment Basic Considerations: Focus on decisional abilities, not cooperativeness or affability. Pay attention to changes over time; history is important. Beware of ageist stereotypes. Consider whether mitigating factors could explain the behavior. p. 13

Part A of Worksheet: 

Part A of Worksheet Observing possible cognitive signs of diminished capacity: Short-term memory problems Language/Communications Problems Comprehension problems Lack of mental flexibility Calculation/Fin. Mgt. Problems Disorientation p. 23

Part A of Worksheet: 

Part A of Worksheet Observing possible emotional signs of diminished capacity: Emotional distress Emotional lability p. 23

Part A of Worksheet: 

Part A of Worksheet Observing possible behavioral signs of diminished capacity: Delusions Hallucinations Poor grooming/hygiene Also consider: Functioning beyond the office: ADLs and IADLs Signs of undue influence Mitigating Factors p. 24

Part B of Worksheet: 

Part B of Worksheet Notes the Relevant Legal Elements of Task at Hand, e.g.… Testamentary capacity Contractual capacity Donative capacity p. 25

Part C of WorksheetTask-Specific Factors: 

Part C of Worksheet Task-Specific Factors Margulies/Fordham Paradigm Functional components Ability to articulate reasoning behind decision Variability of state of mind Ability to appreciate consequences of decision Substantive components 4. Irreversibility of decision 5. Substantive fairness Consistency with lifetime commitments of client Referred to in New Model Rule 1.14 – Comment [6] p. 25

Part D of Worksheet: 

Part D of Worksheet Preliminary Conclusions about Client Capacity [ ] Intact: No or very minimal evidence of diminished capacity [ ] Mild problems: Some evidence of diminished capacity [ ] More than mild problems: Substantial evidence of diminished capacity [ ] Severe problems: Client lacks capacity to proceed with representation and transaction p. 26

Consultations & Referrals: 

Consultations andamp; Referrals Consultation: A lawyer’s conversation with a clinician to discuss concerns about the client’s presentation. Usually client is not identified and consultation does not require client consent. Referral: A formal referral to a clinician for evaluation, which may or may not result in a written report. Requires client consent. p. 31

Potential Uses of Clinical Opinion : 

Potential Uses of Clinical Opinion Expert testimony in a subsequent deposition or courtroom hearing. Clarification of the areas of diminished capacity and of retained strengths. Affirmation of the client’s capacity. Justification of the attorney’s capacity concerns to disbelieving clients and family members. Expert advice on strategies to compensate for identified mental deficits. Indication of the need for protective action. Recommendation for follow-up testing (anticipated restoration of capacity). p. 32

Who is an appropriate clinician? : 

Who is an appropriate clinician? The most important criterion is the clinician’s experience and knowledge in the assessment of older adults p. 32

Checklist for Referral Letter: 

Checklist for Referral Letter Client background Reason client contacted lawyer, date, whether new or old client. Purpose of referral: Capacity to do what? Nature of the legal task to be performed, elemental component. Relevant legal standard(s). Medical and functional information known. p. 36

Checklist for Referral Letter: 

Checklist for Referral Letter Living situation; family make-up and contacts; social network. Environmental/social factors that the lawyer believes may affect capacity. Client’s values and preference to the extent known; client’s perception of problem. Whether a phone consultation is wanted prior to the written report. p. 36

Slide31: 

p. 37

Clinical versus Legal Capacity Outcomes: 

Clinical versus Legal Capacity Outcomes The lawyer, or the court if an issue before the court, makes the final determination of legal capacity p. 39

Appendices: 

Appendices Capacity Assessment Algorithm (p.42) Case Examples (p. 43) Brief Guide to Psychological andamp; Neuropsychological Instruments (p. 59) Dementia Overview, by the Alzheimer’s Association (p. 67) p. 42

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