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Reasons to question testamentary capacity

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2018 | Estate Planning And Probate

After a will is executed, challenges can arise over the validity of the document. This is especially true if the will contains provisions that seem unfair or out of character for the testator or if someone advances a legitimate claim to some portion to the estate.

In order for a will to hold water, the testator must have possessed the legal authority to create the will. This is known as testamentary capacity. Not all people who might wish to create a will have testamentary capacity. Also, a person who might otherwise have testamentary capacity may lose it if he or she attempts to create a will under the influence or some substance, or under coercion from some other party.

If you have concerns about the testamentary capacity of a loved one, you should carefully examine the legal solutions you have available to keep your interests and rights protected while you resolve the matter fairly.

Age restrictions and mental states

If a person younger than 18 years old creates a will, most courts will not uphold it. This may cause unique complications for younger individuals who inherit or otherwise own property, but is a standard part of our legal framework concerning age and liability.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is no age restriction on how old a person may be to create a valid will. However, practically speaking, almost all people lose some degree of clarity over time, even those who appear to remain mentally sharp.

For instance, If someone you love creates a will in his or her old age and but no longer is able to understand the legal issues at hand, you may decide to challenge the validity of the document. However, this may require going to great lengths to prove the mental condition of this person, which is not always easy to demonstrate.

Intoxication and coercion

In some cases, a person may create a will while under the influence of some mind-altering substance. This might be from taking illegal drugs, a heavy night at the bar or from taking prescribed or over-the-counter medications that alter mood and/or mental status. If there is any evidence to support claims of intoxication, it might be possible to question testamentary capacity.

It is also possible that a person may create or alter a will under unfair or criminal pressure from some other person or party. If you have concerns that some other party influenced your loved one to create or change a will, it’s is a very serious matter. In addition to challenges in New York’s civil courts, this type of meddling can result in criminal charges.

There are many reasons to raise concerns over the testamentary capacity of a testator. If any of these examples apply in your circumstances, do not wait to take strong legal action to protect the best interests of your loved ones and yourself.