Who Are Vulnerable Clients and What is Mental Capacity?
Posted on 29th October 2017
When we talk about a vulnerable person, we often associate this with the elderly, however this is not always the case, people can be classed as being vulnerable at all different ages, it is not just about age, it can be about abilities and emotions.
In the Will Writing & Estate Planning industry, every adult has a right to be able to make a Will or put in place a Lasting Power of Attorney. People often think that because a person may have some learning difficulties that they are not capable of putting a Will in place, until it is proven that a person does not have the capacity to do something, then you need to assume that they do have the capacity.
At the same time, the Will Writer and Estate Planner needs to be conscious of not taking advantage of the vulnerable client or assume that because they do not understand the terminology that they do not have the capacity. It is about asking the right questions relevant to the result required, and asking the right questions in such a way as the client can understand, which in turn could also be the use of tools to help the client understand what they want to do, this could be using a packet of biscuits or a tin of chocolates to work out percentages of an Estate to be left to beneficiaries for example.
If a person has been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer's or Dementia, go and see them in their own home where they are comfortable and have familiar surroundings. Talk to them in easy language don't baffle them with jargon that will get them stressed and confused, don't lead them into making decisions that they otherwise would not, take time do not rush them.
People may lack capacity in one area but not in another, for example they may no longer be able to manage their finances, however they have the ability to know that they need help with their finances and are very clear on whom they want to help them look after their affairs.
Getting to know your client to understand them and their needs and helping them to achieve their wishes is good practice.
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