Decisional Capacity Expert California

Dr. Stacey Wood is one of the nation’s leading expert witnesses in the areas of decisional capacity and neuropsychology. Wood has vast experience as an expert witness across a broad spectrum of court cases involving decisional capacity here in California and nationwide. See Dr. Wood’s curriculum vitae.

Licensed in Washington State and CA.

Board Certified in Geropsychology


Years of experience


Expert Analysis


Trials and Depositions

Decisional Capacity California

Decisional capacity California is a general term that can be defined as “a threshold requirement for persons to retain the power to make decisions for themselves” (Appelbaum & Gutheil, 1991, p. 180). The principal determinant of this ability is cognition.

There are many things that can diminish one’s mental status, such as illnesses like Alzheimer’s Disease or certain medications and clinical therapies that have the potential to affect cognition. These sometimes result in impaired decision-making capability.

A skillful decisional capacity California evaluation using a variety of assessment tools may also help determine the level of an individual’s cognitive impairments and enhance the efficacy of talks with their surrogate decision-maker. It can also be of benefit as a guide for physicians when assessing competence to consent to said treatment.

Clinical and legal professionals are increasingly turning to psychologists for opinions regarding the decision-making capacity of older adults. Conducting an interview and a full assessment of patient capacity helps determine the mental health of patients and ascertain whether or not a patient has sufficient capacity. This is an essential step in striking the correct balance between respecting individual liberty and behaving in a patient’s best interest.

Dr. Wood’s Experience

When determining the mental status of patients, clinical psychologists are well-positioned to bring the critical skills of standardized assessment and comprehensive report writing to questions of diminished decisional capacity in California. 

Dr. Wood is a forensic neuropsychology expert with over 20 years of experience in assessing the risks and benefits of these complex subjects, as well as presenting her findings in court.

Contact a proven decisional capacity expert for your next case.

Why choose Dr. Wood for decision making capacity cases?

In a comparison with her contemporaries, it is apparent that there are many reasons patients should choose Dr. Stacey Wood for conducting a formal interview, assessing competence to consent to treatment, and finding whether a surrogate decision-maker is necessary.

Experience You Can Count On

Dr. Wood has experience in presenting these complex cases in her writing, reports, presentations and testifying. In fact, she is one of the leading witnesses in neuropsychology.


A Leader in Her Field of Study

Dr. Wood has published extensively in the area of decisional capacity and continues to be an active scholar in this area. As such, she is aware of new developments in the field and can help provide evidence-based solutions to these cases.

Specialized Expertise

Dr. Wood’s scope of practice is limited to the assessment of older adults and dependent adults with diminished capacity. She understands the risks and benefits, as well as the values of American patients remaining as independent as responsibly possible.

Interested in working with Dr. Wood on a decisional capacity case?

Featured Information on Decisional Capacity

Assessment of Older Adults with Diminished Capacity

Published by the APA and ABA, Dr. Wood served as Lead Editor on the volume.

Assessment of Capacity in the Aging Society

An excellent summary of key issues in the assessment of decisional capacity by Moye, Marson, and Edelstein.

Undue Influence

If you are tasked with a case involving undue influence in California, consider consulting with Dr. Stacey Wood.

Probate Conservatorship

Dr. Stacey Wood is one of the nation’s leading expert witnesses in the areas of probate conservatorship and contested conservatorship.
Dr. Stacey Wood

Dr. Stacey Wood

Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology, Scripps College. Board certified in geropsychology.

Curriculum Vitae

My scholarly interests are in the areas of neuropsychology and decision-making from a lifespan development perspective. I am interested in how changes in the brain, emotion, and motivation interact across the lifespan to influence how we make decisions. I am especially interested in taking theoretical work and applying it to everyday types of decisions. One such application is in the area of assessing decision-making capacity for the courts. An understanding of cognitive mechanisms that may underlie specific types of legal decisions (i.e. testamentary, financial elder abuse) can help us to design better tools and be more effective as witnesses.

Contact Dr. Wood Today

Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology; Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Washington State and CA.

Phone: (909) 706-2764
Curriculum Vitae: View Here
Connect with Dr. Wood on LinkedIn

Decisional Capacity: Extended Information

When choosing a decisional capacity expert in California, it is prudent to avail yourself of as much information about the formal subject, as possible. Understanding what the various terms mean is a good start. Then contact a qualified neuropsychologist like Dr. Wood for a more through explanation.

Standard Decision-Making Capacity Definition

Generally, the standard decision-making capacity definition refers to the ability to create one’s own decisions. It is considered essential to the ethical values of respect for autonomy and is a key component of informed consent to treatment. Determining whether an individual has adequate capacity to make decisions is, therefore, an inherent element to interactions between clinician and patients.

If they can demonstrate understanding of the situation, awareness of the results of their choices, and the ability to reason through and communicate their decisions, they are deemed competent.

While competency and capacity are often used interchangeably, the general term decisional capacity can be defined as “a threshold requirement for persons to retain the power to make decisions for themselves” (Appelbaum & Gutheil, 1991, p. 180).

Decision-Making Capacity vs. Competence

In clinical practice, there is often not a large distinction on decision-making capacity vs competency. The vital differentiation is that psychological capacity refers to the ability to make decisions. Questions of ability are regulated by laws and will often apply to people who have a “mental disorder”. If capability is contested, decision-making procedures that act in the best interests of the individual can be put in motion alongside other lawful provisions.

In legal usage, capacity has become more common and is now favored in areas such as adult guardianship (Moye, Wood, et al., 2007).

Competence, however, denotes the capability to do tasks required to put decisions into effect. Questions of proficiency nevertheless entail evaluation and may apply to anybody, where other people have the legal powers to influence or control the individual’s actions.

Navigating the distinction in the courtroom can be complex and a decisional capacity expert in California can provide tremendous value.

Decisional Capacity Definition

The decisional capacity definition covers a few legal and medical aspects. In many jurisdictions, the law assumes that adults, and in some cases children that meet certain standards, are capable of making their own medical decisions. Decisional capacity could loosely be defined as the ability of patients and other healthcare subjects to make decisions regarding their own health.

Questions of “capacity” also occasionally extend to other contexts, such as capacity to stand trial at a court of law and the ability to make decisions regarding personal care and finances.

The decisional capacity definition mirrors that of decision-making capacity developed by Appelbaum & Gutheil, which states “a threshold requirement for persons to retain the power to make decisions for themselves” (Appelbaum & Gutheil, 1991, p. 180).

Assessing Capacity for Decision Making California

Questions regarding the capacity for decision making California can come up in a number of jurisdictions including criminal, probate, and civil matters. The specific legal standards depend on the jurisdiction that is at issue, which will be described more at other relevant points on the site.

As a decisional capacity expert in California, I begin with a common sense approach. I ask, “Is this person able to make decisions in their own best interest?” If not, I determine what the obstacles to better decision-making are.

I am based out of the Los Angeles-area but have worked with clients across California and the nation. If you have a case with a decision capacity element, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Is there a Decision-Making Capacity Assessment Tool?

There are a number of tools that have been developed to assist in the assessment of decisional capacity. For example, in cases where undue influence is suspected and a specific transaction is in question, I have found the Lichtenberg Financial Capacity Scale to be very helpful: View the Scale.

Peter A. Lichtenberg PhD, ABPP, Lisa Ficker PhD, Analise Rahman-Filipiak MA, Ron Tatro BA, Cynthia Farrell MSW, James J. Speir MSW, Sanford J. Mall JD, Patrick Simasko JD, Howard H. Collens JD & John Daniel Jackman Jr., MD (2016) The Lichtenberg Financial Decision Screening Scale (LFDSS): A new tool for assessing financial decision making and preventing financial exploitation, Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 28:3, 134-151, DOI: 10.1080/08946566.2016.1168333

As legal and medical criteria are frequently being updated, continuing medical education (CME) is always advisable. This ensures an understanding of findings like those from the Alzheimer’s Disease study by Marson DC, treatment a guide for physicians,  as well as other procedures and assessment tools.

4 Key Elements of Decisional Capacity

Overall, my clinical model of decisional capacity is based upon the Grisso and Applebaum model with modifications arising from the ABA / APA working group that includes:

  1. A medical condition that may impair capacity
  2. Impairment in Cognitive Functioning
  3. Impairment in Functional ability related to the decisional domain at hand
  4. Interaction of Decisional Context

Following the Appelbaum PS assessing competence model also allows me to recognize when impairment constitutes incompetence.

How is a Decisional Capacity Evaluation used in Court?

Decisional capacity California evaluations may be used in criminal (elder abuse), civil (fraud, will contest), and probate (conservatorship) matters. Typically a report serves to describe the approach and findings of the clinician relative to the issue at hand. The clinician’s opinion is one of the factors the court will consider.

Dr. Wood has significant experience as a decisional capacity expert witness in California, working on hundreds of cases for various law firms and government organizations. Additional evidence, such as medical records, collateral interviews, neuropsychological test data, and previous estate planning documents assist in developing a strong case.

Decisional Capacity
Contact Information

Dr. Stacey Wood, Ph.D.
Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology; Licensed Clinical Psychologist, CA.

Phone: (909) 706-2764
Connect with Dr. Wood on LinkedIn

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