Decisional Capacity California
Decisional capacity 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).
Clinical and legal professionals are increasingly turning to psychologists for opinions regarding the decision-making capacity of older adults. Often these complex cases require fine-grained cognitive and functional evaluation that balances promoting autonomy while protecting a vulnerable adult from harm.
Dr. Wood’s Experience
Psychologists are well-positioned to bring the critical skills of standardized assessment and comprehensive report writing to questions of diminished capacity.
Dr. Wood is a forensic neuropsychology expert with extensive experience in conducting these comprehensive and complex assessments 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?
Experience You Can Count On
Dr. Wood has experience in presenting these complex cases in her writing, reports, presentations and testifying.
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 evidenced based solutions to these cases.
Dr. Wood scope of practice is limited to the assessment of older adults and dependent adults with diminished capacity.
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 and major contributor to 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.
If you are tasked with a case involving undue influence in California, consider consulting with Dr. Stacey Wood.
Dr. Stacey Wood is one of the nation’s leading expert witnesses in the areas of probate conservatorship and contested conservatorship.
Dr. Stacey Wood
Professor of Psychology, Scripps College
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.
Decisional Capacity: Extended Information
Standard Decision-Making Capacity Definition
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 competence. In legal usage, capacity has become more common and is now favored in areas such as adult guardianship (Moye, Wood, et al., 2007). 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 mirrors the definition for 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
In California, questions of decisional capacity can come up in a number of jurisdictions including criminal, probate, and civil matters. The specific legal standards depend on the jurisdiction at issue- these 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, asking is this person able to make decisions in their best interest, and if not determining what are the obstacles to better decision-making. 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 reach out.
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 with undue influence questions and a specific transaction 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
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:
- A medical condition that may impair capacity.
- Impairment in Cognitive Functioning.
- Impairment in Functional ability related to the decisional domain at hand.
- Interaction of Decisional Context.
How is a Decisional Capacity Evaluation used in Court?
In California, capacity 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.