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Questions surrounding mental incapacity in will contests

To bring a successful will contest, it is important to know the basic requirements for a will to pass probate in New York state. Essentially, a valid will must exhibit mental capacity by the testator (the person making the will), testamentary intent (exhibited by the intent to make the document their expression of how they want their property distributed), and testamentary capacity (aged 18 or older).

As such, most will contests will center on the first element, mental capacity. This post will explore the questions raised with a mental incapacity claim.

Did the testator understand what was in their will? – Essentially, the testator must have a general idea of what was in their last will and testament. Of course, a number of things could prevent them from knowing exactly what the will entailed, especially if was originally drafted long ago and had been updated over time.

Did the testator understand what they owned? – Similarly, this question involves more than the testator having a full and complete inventory of what they owned, or an encyclopedic knowledge of when they purchased pieces of furniture or stock options. It must be proven that they did have the sound mind to describe what they intended to devise to heirs or beneficiaries.

Did the testator understand who their friends were? – Finally, mental incapacity does not involve minute, little known facts about friends and family. But if the testator genuinely has no recognition of long-time friends or family members, this could form the basis for a will contest.

All of these questions may be tough, but an experienced probate law attorney can help gather the right information to answer them. 

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