Losing a loved one is hard. While you struggle to cope with the emotional ramifications of your loss, you might also be worried about other issues pertaining to your loved one. Some of those issues might involve your loved one’s estate. These can be tricky matters, especially when people come forward worried about their inheritance, or if they will receive an inheritance at all. Depending on your unique set of circumstances, then, you might need to be prepared to protect your interests and your lost loved one’s intent.
Don’t take testamentary capacity for granted
A lot of times, cases that end up in probate court involve issues surrounding testamentary capacity. Simply put, testamentary capacity is one’s mental ability to engage in estate planning and understand what he or she is doing. Estate planning documents are presumed to be created with the requisite capacity, which means the burden of proving lack of testamentary capacity falls on the individual who is challenging the legal validity of the document in question.
What a court will look for in contested cases
When testamentary capacity is drawn into question, a court will consider three major issues to determine if the document in question should be invalidated for lack of requisite capacity. So, if you’re dealing with a capacity issue, you want to carefully consider each of the following:
- Whether your loved one understood that he or she was signing a document that would dictate the distribution of property after his or her death
- Whether your loved one appreciated the character and value of the property involved
- Whether he or she understood who would otherwise inherit the property absent the document in question
- Whether your loved understood the general nature and effect of signing the document
Some of these factors can be difficult to prove. That’s why you probably want to have an attorney by your side who knows how to argue these issues in a probate court. You’ll also want evidence to support your position, which may require expert testimony on mental health. In the end, with your inheritance on the line, you should do everything you can to protect yourself and your interests.