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What does testamentary capacity mean when creating a will?

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2022 | Estate Planning

Residents of Illinois can benefit by creating a will to protect their estates and loved ones. Sometimes, there are questions regarding the person’s capacity during the will’s creation. Knowing what this means can determine whether the document is legal.

Understanding testamentary capacity

When a person creates their last will and testament, they are considered the testator. Testamentary capacity refers to the individual’s mental state and ability to create a valid will. By law, the person must have their full mental faculties in order to ensure that their will is legal. They must have a full understanding of what’s included and why they are creating the will in the first place. If the person’s testamentary capacity is questionable, it could result in someone else contesting the will.

How testamentary capacity is determined

After a person passes away, their will must go through the probate court to determine whether it’s valid. If any members of the decedent’s family believe it’s not, they can contest it. Lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence are two of the most common reasons to do that. In the former situation, the document could be found invalid if there’s evidence that the testator was mentally incapacitated in some way. For example, they suffered from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or a brain injury that affected their ability to think and reason rationally.

If someone contests a will, there must be evidence to back it up. This can be in the form of paperwork from a medical professional or even testimony from a doctor who treated the testator during the time the will was created. However, if the individual’s mental state declined after the will was written, it would not suffice or invalidate the document.

When ample evidence exists that the decedent did not have the capacity to create a legal will, the court could declare the document invalid.