Prove testamentary capacity during estate planning

On Behalf of | Dec 17, 2023 | Estate Planning

When you sign a last will and testament, you are setting up a plan that others will carry out after you die. This legal document often includes instructions for distributing assets to heirs or other beneficiaries. For a will to be valid, certain elements must exist, one of which is soundness of mind. The legal term for this is “testamentary capacity,” and if someone believes you did not possess this capacity when you signed your will, then he or she can challenge its validity in probate court. 

What does “soundness of mind” mean in terms of testamentary capacity and the estate planning process? In fact, it means several things, and understanding them (and proving them) ahead of time can ensure that the probate process will run smoothly and that you can swiftly resolve any challenges against your will.  

4 elements that demonstrate testamentary capacity 

To prove that you possess testamentary capacity before signing a last will and testament, you must be able to demonstrate each element shown in the following list:  

  • You can properly identify your heirs and beneficiaries. 
  • You know the full value of your estate. 
  • You understand the purpose of a last will and testament. 
  • You understand the implications of signing a will, meaning everything that will occur because of what is in your will.  

If you can demonstrate the knowledge and understanding provable by these elements, then you possess testamentary capacity. 

A valid will is legally enforceable 

If you volunteer to undergo a mental health assessment that proves your capability to sign a last will and testament, then the court can legally enforce the terms and instructions of your will. If someone contests your will based on a supposed lack of testamentary capacity, but the record shows that you underwent assessment that proved you to be of sound mind, then the challenge may be without merit.  

There are other legitimate reasons for challenging a will 

Even if you prove testamentary capacity before signing a will in Kansas, there is no guarantee that an individual or group will not challenge your will for some other reason. For example, there are estate laws requiring witnesses to be present when you sign a will. In this state, you must write or print your last will and testament, as well.  

It is best to review all state laws regarding the estate planning process before executing a plan. It is also wise to seek guidance and support from someone who is knowledgeable about estate administration and probate laws, as well, in case any questions or legal issues arise.