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Legal Standards for Testamentary Capacity
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If you’re considering making a valid will, you’ve probably heard of the term testamentary capacity. Testamentary capacity is an important part of making a valid will in Georgia. It is a legal term that refers to the state of mind of the person writing the will and their ability to understand the implications and consequences of their will. It is the most important legal requirement when making a will.
The person who is making the will must be of sound mind, which means that they must be able to understand the concept of ownership, the nature and value of their property, and the effect of their will on their heirs. They must also be able to understand and appreciate the fact that they are making a will.
In this guide, you will learn about testamentary capacity when writing wills. For help with your estate plan, contact The Law Office of Paul Black.
What Is Testamentary Capacity?
Under the Georgia Code, testators have testamentary capacity if they have “a decided and rational desire as to the disposition of property.”
The legal term ‘testator’ refers to the person who makes the will. Sometimes, the legal term is ‘testatrix,’ which refers to a female testator.
The requirement of testamentary capacity must be met for a will to be deemed valid. If the testator lacks testamentary capacity, an action might be brought in probate court to contest the will.
It is then up to the probate court to determine whether the will is valid. In the event that the will is invalidated, estate distribution is in accordance with Georgia law. Suppose, for example, the heirs include minors. The probate court may order a guardianship or conservatorship. Georgia law applies by default.
Demonstrating Testamentary Incapacity
A common ground for challenging a will’s validity is a lack of testamentary capacity. The legal challenge usually happens after the person’s death. It is usually brought by the person who gets an unfavorable share in the testator’s property.
The capacity of a testator to make a valid will is based on their mental ability to understand the nature and consequences of their actions at the time of writing the will. As such, someone with a mental illness can make a will when lucid.
However, if the testator is suffering from an impaired mental capacity, they may lack the capacity to make a will. In these cases, a will made on their behalf may not be valid.
Mental capacity is often challenged due to the testator’s mental state, which could be affected by:
Loss of memory due to age, such as Alzheimer’s disease
Claims that a person lacks capacity must be proven by clear and convincing evidence that the testator was of unsound mind. This mental incapacity has rendered the person incapable of understanding and making decisions about his estate. His mental illness may make him vulnerable to undue influence. An assessment of testamentary incapacity is required to invalidate a will.