From the time you were quite young, you probably remember your parents doing things that you did not understand. In fact, some of the decisions your parents made, from their wardrobes to their job choices, may have seemed foolish and ridiculous to you.
Now that you are an adult, you may have a better idea about why your parents made their decisions and the train of thought behind some of their choices. Unfortunately, your parents’ capacity for making reasonable decisions may come into play again if you have serious concerns about their estate planning choices.
Testamentary capacity and undue influence
When someone writes a will, the law assumes that person understands what he or she is doing and knows the ramifications of those decisions. Even if the testator makes a poor choice, that does not necessarily mean he or she was incapable of understanding the situation. This basic level of comprehension and ability to make rational choices is known as testamentary capacity. It is the lowest standard of competency, and it is all the law requires when someone makes a will.
Testamentary capacity when signing a will means that your parents understood the following concepts:
- That they were signing their wills
- The general contents and value of their estate
- Those who would be the natural beneficiaries of the estate
These factors are especially critical if your parent made some controversial choices in the will, such as disinheriting you or your sibling, or had a previously valid will but made inexplicable changes. Such changes may raise the suspicion that someone persuaded or coerced your loved one into altering the will using threats or undue pressure. Your loved one may have had sufficient metal capacity to create a valid will but felt he or she had no choice but to give in to the pressure from the other person.
Finding an advocate
A valid will in Ohio and many other states requires witnesses, and those witnesses can be valuable if they can attest to the influence someone may have had on your parent. You may also seek the assistance of medical professionals, caregivers and others who can testify to your loved one’s mental state.
Finally, seeking the assistance of a legal professional can provide valuable resources. An attorney with experience in probate litigation can guide you in seeking evidence of fraud, undue influence or lack of mental capacity that may invalidate your parents’ controversial will.