One question that the court may ask when determining the validity of a will is if the person who did the estate planning possessed the testamentary capacity to do so. It's very important to understand what this means and how it can impact an estate plan.
Overall, testamentary capacity is simply the ability to understand and fully comprehend the estate planning process. It is sometimes referred to as "being of sound mind," but it does go a bit further than that. It's the process of making sure the person's real intent lines up with the estate plan. They need to understand things like:
- The will's overall purpose
- The fact that they are signing a will at all
- The fact that the documents will help pass their assets and property on to their beneficiaries
This is sometimes an issue with older individuals who may have put their estate planning off. Did they know they were signing a will or was the document presented to them with no explanation -- or even under false pretenses? Did they make changes to an existing will that contradicted the older documents, showing that they may not have understood what the newest version really did with their assets?
When people have degenerative brain disorders, they may not completely understand what is happening around them or what they're being asked to do. The same is true for those taking certain medications. There is a risk that they would create an estate plan that did not actually reflect their wishes and desires. This is something that should always be avoided, and those doing estate planning need to know what legal options they have and the ramifications of those decisions.