Testamentary capacity: what is it and how is it assessed?

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2023 | Estate And Trust Litigation

A will is one of the most important legal documents you could ever create. At its most basic level, a will outlines your wishes with regard to what you want to happen to your assets when you die. Without a will in place at the time of your death, the ways in which your assets will be distributed will be the government’s decision to make.

For your will to be valid and enforceable, it must meet certain requirements. Per Texas laws, you must be at least 18 at the time of your will’s creation. The document must be witnessed by at least two non-interested parties. Additionally, you must have testamentary capacity to create a will that is both valid and legally enforceable.

Understanding testamentary capacity

Basically, testamentary capacity is the ability to understand and make sound decisions about your personal affairs. Simply put, you must be of sound mind, memory and understanding at the time of creating and signing your will for this document to be considered legally valid.

Generally, testamentary capacity must be backed by the following:

  • You need to understand the basic outline of the terms and conditions of the will you are creating
  • You need to understand the scope of your estate
  • You need to understand family circumstances and any claims that may be made on your estate
  • You must not have suffered or be suffering from a mental condition that prevents you from meeting the above criteria

Circumstances that might lead to questions regarding your mental capacity

It is not uncommon for someone to dispute a will on grounds of the testator’s lack of testamentary capacity at the time of signing the document. To have their way, however, the challenger must provide clear evidence that you, indeed, lacked the testamentary capacity at the time of creating your will. Here are some of the situations where your testamentary capacity could be questioned:

  • If you were experiencing lucid intervals
  • If there was evidence of a degenerating condition like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • If you had a mental disorder that impacted your ability to understand your actions

Given the significance of a will, the law requires you to have a certain degree of mental capacity at the time of its creation. Find out how you can prevent someone from disputing your Texas will on the grounds of lack of testamentary capacity.