Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A Story of Dementia: The Mother Who Changed

AlzheimersA bitter family dispute in Iowa hinged on one crucial question: When cognitive decline from dementia changes someone's personality, should we respect their new desires?

Diane Norelius of Denison, Iowa, was the center of a heated legal dispute between her daughters and her new beau over her cognitive abilities and capacity after being diagnosed with dementia in 2017.

Norelius was the sole beneficiary of a trust after her husband of 53 years passed away. After his death, Diane became tasked with making significant financial decisions for the first time in her entire life. Daunted by the task, she asked her daughter Juli to be the trustee of the Diane F. Norelius Trust. This arrangement worked for several years until Diane's personality began to change.

She found love again with a horseshoer named Denzil, and Juli began to receive questions about how the trust was being handled. Denzil tells the story of a woman finding her voice and taking control of her life. Yet her daughters describe the abusive situation of an incapacitated woman being taken advantage of.  

This article explores the emotional and legal journey of a family to discover when someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s loses their decision-making capacity and how this impacts the estate planning process.

For more information see Katie Engelhart “A Story of Dementia: The Mother Who Changed” The New York Times Magazine, May 9, 2023.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention. 


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