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Guard your wishes: Ensuring testamentary capacity in your will

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2024 | Will Contests

A well-crafted will ranks among the most crucial documents you’ll ever create. It empowers you to clearly communicate your desires for your estate’s distribution after you’re gone.

However, there are circumstances under which well-intentioned family members might raise concerns about your mental fitness to create a valid will. If you anticipate such a challenge, taking proactive steps may help prevent this situation from unfolding.

Understanding testamentary capacity

The term refers to the mental competency required to make sound decisions regarding your estate and incorporate them into your will. Courts typically only question testamentary capacity when someone, such as a spouse or child, contests the will.

In such cases, to uphold the document’s validity, it must be established that you:

  • Understood you were signing a will and grasped its legal effect
  • Possessed a clear understanding of the nature and value of assets in the will
  • You knew about all heirs and beneficiaries when deciding how to distribute assets

Should your will be contested, the court will also seek to assess the possibility of advanced dementia or a mental disorder impacting your judgment.

Demonstrating testamentary capacity

You might be wondering how it is possible to prove your mental fitness after your passing. The trick is to do it during your lifetime. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Maintain regular medical evaluations with a healthcare professional familiar with mental capacity assessment, creating an evidence trail.
  • Craft a written letter of intent explaining your decisions regarding asset distribution to help your heirs understand your choices.
  • Discuss your concerns with an estate planning representative and seek guidance on preventing will contests.

By familiarizing yourself with strategies for creating a solid will and other estate documents, you can gain peace of mind knowing your final wishes will be carried out in the ways in which you want them to be.