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With no patient history, can a psychologist declare competency?

My mother-in-law was taken to a psychologist in order to have her sign a new will, trust and power of attorney. The competency letter states, "She carries no diagnosis of dementia or any other diagnosis that might imply the reduction of cognitive functioning." However, Mom was under a doctor's care for memory problems and taking medication for 1-2 years before seeing this person. The cousin now has power of attorney and Mom is in an Alzheimers unit in a nursing home. Of course, the cousin is named beneficiary on everything she owns. Mom has a son that was to receive everything when she passes until the cousin came into the picture. The cousin knew of her medical problems, but did not inform the psychologist. My husband and I are currently trying to find a lawyer that will take our case. I believe that if the psychologist had been informed of her medical history, he would not have deteremined her to be competent to sign legal documents. He only had a few minutes to meet with her and the cousin was present also. Shouldn't the psychologist be informed?
Status: Open    Sep 14, 2015 - 07:34 AM

Elder Law, Relationships

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5 answers


Sep 20, 2015 - 08:47 AM

A psychologist is not a medical doctor. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. How the heck did this cousin get around the legalities to obtain a POA? You need to consult an Eldercare Attorney. Direct lineal descende(a)nts (son) should take precedence over a 'cousin' in my opinion unless the son is incompetent. Definitely something fishy about this whole issue.

Sep 20, 2015 - 12:13 PM

Get Mom through the medical channels, have her tested, than take the results to an estate and elder law attorney. I took my husband to a primary doctor, who referred me to a neurologist, who referred me to a psychologist for testing. The neurologist tested for brain tumors and signs of stroke. Neuro tests showed no physical reason for his abnormal behavior, and I was referred to the psychologist. My husband was diagnosed with severe mental impairment and memory loss, which was a big shock to all but our closest friends (and me, of course) because he "sounded and behaved like always." The psychological testing proved and recommended what I already knew -- my husband should not be driving and he was not capable of making his own medical or financial decisions. I asked the psychologist what I should do now, he said get a lawyer. The psychologist had no medical history on my husband other than what I told him on our first office visit -- that he was having trouble. My husband denied what I told the doctor, said it was a "fabrication", but could give the doc no reason why I would say things if they were untrue, so it was me vs him. Doc said "let's test". If the cousin took Mom to the psychologist and talked "pleasantries", Mom could very well appear to not have memory issues and the cousin was able to pull off the show that he/she needed to get control. Take Mom to the right kind of psychologist, one that can properly test for memory issues, and explain your position and what has happened. A cousin that will take the bold steps you have described will stop at nothing to get your Mom's assets, and you can bet that lies and accusations against nearest of kin are not off the table, so buckle up, hunker down, be very guarded, and research sociopaths and psychopaths. Don't laugh, I'm serious. All the well-meaning advice in the world only works if you're dealing with "normal" people. The cousin is not "normal". Normal people do not take the actions you have described. Hate, jealousy, and greed abound. Evil is an appropriate label. It's going to be a very, very rough and expensive ride but one you must endure. I speak from experience. Good luck.

Sep 20, 2015 - 06:55 PM

In many states, competency is determined by a judge, with information gathered from medical doctors, social workers, adult protective services, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, case managers, family, and others involved with the person. I don't know where "legal competency" would be determined by a single source. Most psychologists take a "case history" before diagnosing dementia, or other mental disorders as defined by the DSM-IV. Also, "competency" is a broad term covering legal, functional, cognitive and physical abilities. The information in this case is incomplete for determination of "legal competency" (the ability to understand the implications of signature.

Sep 21, 2015 - 12:26 PM

This is a legal issue. Specifically, was the Alzheimer's condition currently supported by your cousin's placement of your mother-in-law already an issue at time of POA signing, therefore invalidating it and the subsequent will on competetency grounds? Alternatively, if your mother-in-law is completely competent and the documents are valid, is your cousin in violation of fiduciary duty by placing her in Alzheimer's care?

First step...get an eldercare attorney ASAP. The medication history is relevant, along with whatever documentation you have. The other steps, like a doctor's evaluation, psychologist interview & MMSE test may also be useful...or not. Let the lawyer take the lead here. Proving exact date of dementia is a complex process, as is the process of onwindiing contracts and legal documents.

One thing to be crystal-clear about--and it may help you get an attorney--is to be crystal clear about the potential involvement of all parties. From the little I've read, it sounds as if your mother-in-law's son (AKA your husband) was set to inherit everything, but now your cousin has redirected the estate to himself/herself. So it's an estate tug-of-war by relatives, which can get ugly. One thing that a good eldercare attorney can do is to be an impartial third party, with the estate owner as the client.'re not getting yourself a lawyer, but your mother-in-law, accepting whatever is the true outcome of her wishes.

Oct 17, 2015 - 08:23 AM

Call the local county Elder Abuse Elder Abuse is a felony...

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