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When does a testator have the necessary capacity to draft a will?

On Behalf of | Apr 4, 2024 | Estate Planning & Probate

When someone dies, those left behind often hope to spend as little time in probate court as possible. Probate court oversight can delay the distribution of assets from an estate and diminish what the estate is worth by generating court costs. The minimization of probate oversight is sometimes a top priority for testators when they draft their documents.

Sometimes circumstances force people to attend not just basic estate administration hearings in probate court but also probate litigation hearings. Family members, likely heirs and named beneficiaries can potentially take legal action in cases where they question the validity of an estate plan. There are only a few legally-viable reasons to challenge the validity of someone’s will.

Believing that the deceased individual lacked the necessary testamentary capacity to draft an estate plan is one reason to challenge a will. When are such contests possible in Minnesota?

Minnesota has clear standards for capacity

According to Minnesota probate statutes, a testator must be of “sound mind and memory” to draft a valid will or update existing documents. If other people want to challenge the validity of documents that someone drafted, the burden of proof falls to the plaintiff bringing the allegations about the paperwork.

The standard for testamentary capacity in Minnesota is actually lower than the standard for executing a contract. Someone only needs to be aware of their circumstances to have the necessary capacity to establish an estate plan. The testator must know who their beneficiaries are, what assets they own and what their estate planning documents mean for their property and beneficiaries.

Even those with serious medical conditions can still retain their testamentary capacity. There must be adequate evidence of impaired functioning or relevant medical issues to prevail in such contests. In circumstances where families can prove that someone was not of sound mind at the time that they created or edited estate planning paperwork, litigation could help uphold someone’s true intended legacy.

Knowing when to take legal action during estate administration can benefit those with an interest in an estate. People may need to seek legal guidance when they question documents that do not reflect someone’s long-term wishes. Doing so could be a way of respecting their memory.

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