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What is mental capacity, and how does it affect a will?

On Behalf of | Jul 20, 2021 | Probate Disputes

If someone you love has created a will and you believe that they did not understand what they were writing or signing, then you believe that they lacked the mental capacity to make that decision. Mental capacity is an important term in estate planning, because it is what establishes that a person has the understanding to make decisions about their estate on their own.

When a person has the mental capacity to handle their own estate planning, it means that they have an understanding of the effect their actions will have on their estate as well as others. They also must have the memory needed to comprehend their actions and remember what they did. Mental capacity is, in its essence, the ability to make your own decisions and understand how they affect you.

What if someone doesn’t have mental capacity?

If someone doesn’t have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves, then they should not be signing legal documents or making changes to their estate plan. This is because doing so could invalidate the new changes if the will or estate is contested in any way.

Why can’t people without mental capacity change their wills or estate plans? The simple reason is they are more likely to be taken advantage of by others or make changes that they either don’t understand or wouldn’t have made if they were not mentally incapacitated.

Here is an example. If a woman develops Alzheimer’s disease, she may have the mental capacity to make some decisions early on in the disease’s development. However, when the woman can no longer recognize her children or read books she used to enjoy, remember what she had for dinner or take care of herself without support, she may no longer have the mental capacity to make legal decisions for herself.

If you’re concerned that your loved one’s will was changed after they lacked the capacity to make the decision to do so, it may be worth looking into your legal options. In some cases, a past will could be used in place of a new, invalid one.