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When is diminished capacity enough to invalidate a will?

When a person makes a will, it is assumed that he or she is mentally stable and capable enough to make the decisions required.

However, there can be cases where a person is not capable of making a rational decision. In these cases, they may make frivolous decisions or be very susceptible to other people's persuasions. In these instances, family members who want to protect the legitimacy of the will may want to take action so that the funds are used in an appropriate way.

Legal competence

The definition and standards of what it means to be mentally capable enough to make a recognized will varies from state to state. There are also differing mental standards for making a will, signing a contract, appointing a guardian and consenting to the type of medical treatment they would like. Competence, therefore, is relative to the situation.

The capacity to make a will, however, has the lowest standards for competency out of all of these. This might sound surprising, but it is viewed as a person's right to have his or her last wishes known before he or she dies.

Undue influence

Mental capacity involves the state of a person's own mind, however, it becomes interlinked with the undue influence of other people. Those who are mentally vulnerable can easily be coerced by others to change their will to the benefit of the influencer. If this can be proven, the will can be made invalid.

It is important to raise any concerns that you may have about a loved one's will, especially if you have reason to believe that diminished capacity or undue influence was present.

Source: The Balance, "Estate Planning Issues Caused by Diminished Capacity," accessed Nov. 10, 2017

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