Testamentary Capacity - Requirements


The requirements for testamentary capacity are minimal. Some courts have held that a person who lacked the capacity to make a contract can nevertheless make a valid will. While the wording of statutes or judicial rulings will vary from one jurisdiction to another, the test generally requires that the testator was aware of:

  1. The extent and value of their property.
  2. The persons who are the natural beneficiaries
  3. The disposition he is making
  4. How these elements relate to form an orderly plan of distribution of property.

The legal test implies that a typical claimant in a will contest is a disgruntled heir who believes he or she should have received a larger share than they did under the will. Once the challenging party meets the burden of proof that the testator did not possess the capacity, the burden subsequently shifts to the party propounding the will to show by clear and convincing evidence that the testator did have the requisite capacity.

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