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British Columbia physicians and their patients' wills

Doctors may have more of a say in what happens to their patients' estates than most people thought. British Columbia doctors may be called upon to testify in court as to the mental capacity of patients during the time wills were made. This usually happens after a patient has died, but in some instances, a physician's advice is called upon when the patient is living and the lawyer working on a will sends his client for a mental assessment if the lawyer has some concerns.

When a will is being contested on the grounds of mental incapacity, it is incumbent upon the executor(s) of the will to prove that the deceased (or testator) was of sound mind when the will was made. In other words, the one having the will made must have understood what was happening and had a memory of what and who were mentioned in the will and who might have been excluded.. For the most part, a patient-physician relationship is confidential, but it can disclose information with proper authorization or when required by law.

Because of the delicate nature of the patient-doctor relationship, a doctor should always make sure to verify that whomever he or she is releasing medical records to is the patient's authorized representative or someone acting on the patient's behalf, like a lawyer. The person could also be an executor or an estate trustee. If a physician is unsure of who authorized persons are, asking a lawyer for advice would be the best idea.

The issues surrounding estate planning and wills can be complex. An experienced lawyer's advice is well worth having in order to be aware of the legalities involved in British Columbia. A lawyer will safeguard the interests of his clients when it comes to preparing wills and estate planning. 

Source: Physicians and their patients' wills: issues to consider, "cmpa-acpm.ca", Accessed on Aug. 18, 2017

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