When you create a will, you do so with the hope that your wishes will be honored and that your hard-earned assets will pass down to the people and causes you care about. Without a valid will in place, California’s intestacy laws will kick in and determine what happens to your estate, which is far from an ideal situation.
For your will to stand the test of probate, however, it must be valid. This means that it must be executed per California’s wills laws. And just as with any legal document, it also means that you must have the testamentary capacity to execute the document.
Understanding testamentary capacity to create a will
At its most basic, testamentary capacity refers to the mental ability to comprehend what you are doing. In the context of will execution, it means that you must be of sound mind at the time of executing the document. In other words, you must have a clear desire to dispose of your assets in a specific manner when you pass away. This means satisfying the following legal requirements:
- You must understand that in signing the will, you are giving an executor power to distribute your assets in a particular manner when you die
- You must have a clear scope of the assets you intend to distribute through your will
- You must have sound knowledge of your beneficiaries and why you are leaving specific assets for certain individuals
When might your testamentary capacity be a subject of contention?
An interested party may be able to successfully challenge your will on grounds of a lack of testamentary capacity. For this to happen, however, they will likely need to provide evidence that you suffered from a degenerative condition like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease that impacted your ability to satisfy the elements mentioned above. The evidence they would likely need to produce to back their claims includes:
- Your medical report at the time of signing the will
- Testimony from the doctor who treated or was conversant with your condition
- Testimony from your family, caregiver or people who witnessed your will
Safeguarding your interests
Your will speaks for you when you are no longer around to articulate your wishes in person. To serve this function, however, it must be valid. To better ensure that yours meets legal muster, you’ll want to seek legal guidance when executing or updating it.