While estate planning may be seen as an ironclad way to ensure that one’s assets are handled appropriately upon their death, that’s not always the case. In some situations, California citizens may be deemed to have diminished capacity at the time that they signed their will. This can result in throwing out the validity of the document.
Understanding testamentary capacity
Some will and trust contests are based on the contention that the signer of the will lacked testamentary capacity. This term simply means that the person making the will met three basic standards. First, they were capable of comprehending the aspects of the will. Second, the signer understood the value or nature of their property. And lastly, the signer understood who would consequently be their heirs. If the signer failed to meet this standard, the will can be challenged.
If a signer did meet all three of these basic eligibility requirements, then their will is upheld by a court of law. It’s important to realize that making a will requires the least amount of mental capacity as compared to other types of legal documents. Therefore, those with Alzheimer’s disease are still deemed sufficiently capable of constructing a will even though they suffer from physical and speech impairments.
Understanding undue influence
While contesting a will based on the lack of testamentary capacity is rather difficult to do, some heirs may find more success claiming undue influence. Undue influence simply means that the signer of the will, also referred to as the testator, was under coercion to make the will. In this scenario, the signer had full testamentary capacity; however, they felt as if they were being forced to sign the will. A good example of this is if an older person is told they may stay at a grandchild’s home instead of going to a nursing home only if they leave specific assets to that relative in their will.
Contesting a will can be based on several different reasons. The lack of testamentary capacity may be your first option if as you believe your loved one was incapable of understanding the full impact of their decisions. However, you may find that choosing another reason, such as undue influence, would be easier to argue in a court of law.