The critical role of mental capacity in wills and estate planning

Leaving a Will is not as simple as it may seem. There are several complex elements, legal requirements, and tests that must be met. Consider this: Even after death, a will’s validity can be contested in court on grounds of mental capacity. If you’d like to leave or alter a Will, but are concerned about the mental capacity of a loved one or are experiencing deteriorating mental capacity, please seek medical advice and consider contacting the Wills and Estate professionals at Hello Estate Planning today. 

For starters, to leave a valid Will, the person making the Will (or testator), must have sufficient mental capacity. The legal term used to describe a testator’s legal and mental ability to leave or alter a Will is called testamentary capacity. If a testator lacked testamentary capacity at the time of will execution, the Will is invalid.  

For a Will to be valid, a testator must meet the legal test for capacity. In other words, the testator must: 1) understand the nature of making a Will and its consequences, 2) understand the extent of the assets they wish to dispose of, 3) understand the claims to which they wish to effect and 4) have no mental disorder. 

Furthermore, it is common for disappointed beneficiaries to challenge the validity of a Will. A beneficiary can exercise their right to make a claim under relevant circumstances, but they can also challenge the Will’s validity on other grounds. For example, a beneficiary can claim that the deceased lacks the required testamentary capacity to make or alter a Will at the time of execution. Moreover, the beneficiary can argue that the deceased acted while under duress or undue influence. In both contexts, the Will’s validity can be challenged and will possibly be invalid. 

If you’re worried about the validity of a Will due to potential mental capacity issues, it’s important to seek professional advice when leaving or altering a will. Do not resort to making changes at home in the presence of friends or neighbors. To ensure your Will is not challenged on legal grounds, it’s important to have it created by a specialist. Additionally, it’s important to execute the Will in the presence of witnesses who can be traced in the event of a future challenge to its validity. Oftentimes, a GP or other medical professional can provide a medical opinion to support any discussions of the Will or serve as a witness. 

If you want to leave or alter a Will, but are worried about your mental or physical health, act promptly and do not delay. Seek medical and legal advice. Our professionals at Hello Estate Planning are highly experienced in wills and estate planning. Please contact us for a consultation today.