How does mental capacity play into the probate process?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2022 | probate

Taking an estate through the probate process can be stressful, especially when concerns arise over the validity of certain estate planning documents. These disputes can be time-consuming, costly, and damaging to familial relationships. That’s why it’s important that both estate planners and those who will handle estate administration understand some of the common issues that come up during this process. One of these issues is mental capacity.

What is mental capacity?

In order for an estate planning document like a will to be legally valid, the person who created it and is signing off on it has to have the requisite mental capacity. In short, mental capacity is the ability to understand the nature and extent of the property that is being addressed by the document as well as how the document disposes of those assets.

Issues with requisite mental capacity

That may sound simple enough, but concerns about mental capacity arise all of the time. This is seen most often when the testator suffered from some sort of medical or mental health condition, such as dementia. Remember, though, that mental capacity is assessed at the time of the document’s signing. Therefore, it’s possible that someone with one of these conditions still experienced a period of lucidity that gave them the requisite mental capacity at the time of signing. The issue is going to be proving that.

Consider legal help with mental capacity disputes

Proving mental capacity may mean turning to witnesses and medical records to discover the testator’s condition and his or her intentions at the time that the document in question was signed. But this can be a difficult and contentious process, which is why it may be wise for you to have a competent legal professional on your side as you navigate this tricky area of the law.