Lack of Mental Capacity
Lack of Mental Capacity and related Probate (Estate) and Trust Litigation in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Sarasota, Pinellas County, and surrounding West Florida areas.
One of the most common reasons for setting aside a last will and testament, or a trust instrument, is that the person allegedly signing the will or trust lacked the mental capacity to reasonably understand the document they were executing. Being of sound mind is required to execute a will or trust and is simply stated as “testamentary capacity”.
The requisite “testamentary capacity” needed to execute a will or trust is defined as having the ability to generally understand: (1) the nature and extent of one’s property, (2) the relationship of those who would be the natural objects of the testator’s bounty (heirs), and (3) the practical effect of the will or trust.
Testamentary capacity of a testator is presumed, therefore the burden to prove a testator lacks capacity falls on the person challenging the will or trust. The evidence needed to support a claim for lack of capacity usually comes in the form of medical records and/or testimony, along with the testimony of those who spent time with the testator near the date of execution.
Several diseases and related infirmities of old age can lead to diminished capacity, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s-related dementia. Many elderly persons suffer from the onset of early dementia, but learn to mask their disease by depending on others. These elderly persons are highly susceptible to outside influences, especially when these third parties assisting them have ulterior motives.
Moreover, a person challenging a will or trust need not show full incapacity in order to advance their claim. There mere existence of “diminished capacity”, coupled with an overreaching third party (commonly a family member, nurse or neighbor) who unduly influences the elderly person, may give rise to the will or trust being determined invalid.
If you have concerns about any capacity issues, please contact our office, as our attorneys routinely deal with estate (probate) and trust disputes regarding capacity in the courts of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Tampa, Sarasota and the surrounding West Florida areas.