Building An Estate Plan That Is Right For You

When might someone lack the capacity to create a will?

Occasionally, family members take issue with the terms included in someone’s estate plan or will. Those disappointed with the inheritance that they believe that they should receive might try to raise a claim that a testator’s documents are invalid.

One of the more common reasons for will contests in Minnesota is a claim of a lack of testamentary capacity. When might the Minnesota probate courts agree with litigants alleging that someone lacked the capacity to draft a will?

When there is sufficient supporting evidence

A child, spouse or other presumptive beneficiary cannot simply show up in probate court and insist that the will is invalid because someone did not have the necessary capacity to draft legal documents. There is a burden of proof that falls to the person raising that claim in probate court. They will generally need supporting evidence.

People may refer to medical and financial records to substantiate their claims that someone already struggled with cognitive decline or debilitating conditions that affected their mental acuity when they drafted their will. A diagnosis of a condition like Alzheimer’s disease could help someone build a case. Other evidence, such as testimony from caregivers, medical professionals and even neighbors who witnessed someone’s difficulty handling day-to-day life could also help.

Someone who lacks testamentary capacity does not have the ability to rationally understand their circumstances and the consequences of their actions in the way a typical adult would. It can be a challenge to prove that an older adult who still lived independently did not have testamentary capacity, but it may be easier to prove such claims when someone depended on professional care in their daily life.

Raising a claim that someone lacked testamentary capacity could lead to the courts setting aside a will created after their health had begun declining. For some people, pursuing a will contest is necessary because the final documents produced by their loved one disinherit most of the family or significantly deviate from their prior plans. Those who worry about how someone’s cognitive function at the time of document creation may have impacted their decisions may need to discuss the situation with a professional who is familiar with Minnesota’s unique probate laws.