For a will to be considered a valid document, several requirements must be in place. One of the most essential of these requirements, upon which the remainder of the will depends, is the necessity of the will's author having possessed a sound mind at the time of its drafting. This requirement is known as testamentary capacity, and without it, the assumption is that a will's author lacked the capacity of mind to accurately express their intentions to leave property to heirs. In cases where would-be heirs feel deprived of property they believe should have otherwise been inherited, it is common to challenge the testamentary capacity of the will's author.
Challenging testamentary capacity can be difficult, as the default assumption of the courts is that adult authors of a will possess a sound mind. That means the burden of proof belongs to the challenger; to convince a court the author of a will did not have testamentary capacity, the following elements will need to be shown to be true at the time of the will's drafting.
1. The author of the will did not understand what property they owned, nor were they aware of its real value. If substantial portions of the author's property are not mentioned in a will, then doubt may exist about their cognitive abilities.
2. The author of the will was not able to identify their descendants or other relatives. Memory lapses are probably not sufficient in and of themselves to used to deny testamentary capacity, but a genuine inability to recognize potential heirs is problematic.
3. The author of the will did not realize the will would distribute their property upon their death. If the will was written, but there was no recognition upon the part of the writer that it would be a document of distribution, then there are grounds to challenge testamentary capacity.
4. The author of the will did not propose a rational, clear means for distributing the property. Nonsensical wills that do not have an understandable plan for dividing property and passing it on to heirs may indicate that testamentary capacity is lacking.
Challenging testamentary capacity is not a simple matter, and it requires the assistance of an attorney to prepare a case. Other individuals may need to be involved, such as investigators, in order to establish grounds for denial of testamentary capacity. Your attorney will be responsible for making such arrangements and providing counsel to you during the process.
Talk to a firm such as Donald B Linsky & Associate Pa to get started.