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What does it mean to be of sound mind when drafting a will?

On Behalf of | Dec 17, 2021 | Estate Planning |

Wills are important to many New Jersey estate plans. Often, they are one of the first testamentary documents that individuals consider drafting when making plans for the disposition of their property and interests at the time of their deaths. Almost all New Jersey adults are eligible to make wills, but there are some restrictions. Having a sound mind is one requirement that all individuals must meet before their wills can be executed and recognized as valid.

Soundness of mind

Having a sound mind means having some level of understanding about one’s will and what it will accomplish. When a person has a sound mind, they may understand the terms of their will and what wills do when their creators die. The person understands what property they own, and they understand what will happen to their property when they die.

One reason that a sound mind is required to draft and execute a will is that without it, it may be easy for a person to be taken advantage of when preparing their will. For example, an individual may be pressured, coerced, or even tricked into making a testamentary disposition through their will that does not meet their interests or wants. Having a requirement that ensures soundness of mind helps prevent these issues.

Dealing with challenges after a death

Unfortunately, the capacity of an individual may be called into question if the contents of their will are challenged after their death. If a party challenges the will based on capacity, it may become the duty of the probate court to determine if the decedent understood the function and purpose of their will. Addressing questions of capacity can be challenging, and families may wish to work with lawyers to help them along the way.