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Testamentary Capacity

Challenging an Indiana Will based on Testamentary Capacity 

There may be some confusion as to what testamentary capacity is. If you have never had to work with a will in the past, you may have a lot of questions that have yet to be answered. If the testator signs a will, is it because he or she was actually able to understand the will upon signing? There are several factors that determine testamentary capacity or incapacity.

The Factors of Testamentary Capacity

The determination of testamentary capacity includes whether the testator understands the following:

  • The nature and value of his or her assets,
  • Who (people, charities, organizations) should inherit his or her assets, and
  • The legal effect of signing the will, and what it really means.

For the individual to fully understand the value of his or her property, there should be some degree of accuracy in terms of financial numbers; however, the numbers do not have to be exact. If the individual understands the value of the property, he or she is likely capable or has the capacity to sign the will.

The testator should also understand the natural objects of his or her bounty (bounty is stuff) regarding the will. The term “natural objects” refers to those who would most benefit from the will of the testator. Even though most individuals who benefit are family members, leaving the property to these individuals is not required, and the testator can refrain (disinherit) from leaving his or her property to one or more family members. The individual who makes the will should also have a basic understanding that a document (the will) will be created, and the purpose of this document is the orderly distribution his or her property at death. So capacity, requires the testator to understand where his or her property is actually going.

Lastly, the testator should have an understanding of how the will is going to dispose of his or her property. There should be coherence between the intentions of the testator to distribute the assets after death and the process of the distribution in the way that it is written in the will.

What is Testamentary Incapacity?

Testamentary incapacity is not determined just because an individual has a mental or physical disorder that would prevent them from understanding the will. In order for testamentary incapacity to be determined, there must be a direct impact on the content of the will due to the testator's lack of mental capacity. One common topic that is often discussed is delusion, which is defined as any false belief produced by a mental disorder and which individuals of the same age, social class, and educational background would find to be unrealistic.

Contact Our Trusted Michigan City, Indiana Probate Litigation Attorneys

For over 18 years, attorney Guy DiMartino has represented his clients in legal matters. If you have any further questions regarding the legal process involved in preparing or challenging a will, please call a Michigan City probate litigation attorney at 219-690-8997 to get the help you deserve.

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