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Home » Estate Planning » Challenging a will based on testamentary capacity

When a parent or other loved one dies in New Jersey and leaves a will behind, circumstances may arise where a named beneficiary, or someone not named as a beneficiary, tries to challenge its contents. There are only a few circumstances under which individuals might attempt to challenge a will, and one of those circumstances involves questioning the testator’s testamentary capacity. 

Per FindLaw, “testamentary capacity” refers to the person who creates the will being of sound mind when doing so. A presumption exists that adults have testamentary capacity. However, if the adult who makes the will has a condition that may impact his or her ability to reason and make decisions at the time of the will’s creation, this could make the document invalid.

Proving a lack of testamentary capacity

When someone challenges a will based on a lack of testamentary capacity, that individual must be able to show that the testator was unable to understand certain things about the will. The challenger must show that the testator did not understand the extent and value of the property. The challenger also must demonstrate that he or she also did not comprehend who the beneficiaries of the will should be. Furthermore, the testator must not clearly understand what the will actually means and does and how all these elements come together.

Questioning testamentary capacity

Many cases that question a testator’s capacity come about because the testator has one of several conditions. Often, the person challenging a will does so because he or she believes the testator had dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, substance abuse problems or a similar condition when drafting it. 

Many forms of evidence may come into play in a will contest based on testamentary capacity. Medical records and the testimony of medical professionals who treated the testator may be among them.