In theory, anyone who is a legal adult in Texas has the authority to draft their own estate plan. Texas assumes that adults have testamentary capacity and can therefore designate specific recipients for their assets using estate planning documents. However, not everyone remains capable of creating legally-binding documents for the entirety of their life. Quite a few adults in Texas eventually experience debilitating medical issues, ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to mental health disorders like schizophrenia.
The family members of those with profound medical challenges can sometimes initiate probate litigation out of the concern that an adult may have lacked the necessary capacity to draft a valid estate plan.
The burden of proof falls to the plaintiffs
Those who question the validity of an estate plan have the option of challenging or contesting documents in the Texas probate courts. However, the burden of proof in such scenarios falls to those making allegations about a lack of capacity. Typically, significant medical, financial or personal evidence is necessary to support claims of a lack of capacity. Medical records affirming someone’s cognitive decline or diagnosis with a significant medical issue could help.
Financial records showing that someone consistently failed to pay their bills on time after a certain point or engaged in uncharacteristic spending might help support claims of their declining cognitive abilities. Testimony from friends, family, neighbors and professional caregivers can also lend credence to the assertion that an older adult was no longer capable of managing their own affairs at the time when they drafted new estate planning paperwork.
Going to probate court to challenge a questionable estate plan can be a smart decision for those who believe that a loved one lacked the capacity to understand the impact their decisions could have on their legacy and loved ones.