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When does someone lack the capacity to draft a North Dakota will?

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2024 | Estate Planning & Probate

For many people, estate planning is the only time in their lives when they put together legal documents. An estate plan can include documents providing for someone’s care if they become incapacitated as they age. It can also include testamentary documents that describe what should happen to their property after their death.

Most North Dakota wills can go through probate proceedings with few challenges. However, sometimes family members reach the conclusion that someone lacked the necessary capacity to draft legally binding documents. What circumstances might justify a will contest based on a lack of capacity?

Most adults have testamentary capacity.

While an 18-year-old may not be particularly mature or capable of fully understanding the long-term implications of their choices, they still theoretically have the testamentary capacity necessary to create legally binding estate documents. Not everyone who is legally an adult has the ability to create an enforceable and valid estate plan.

If someone has severe mental health challenges or cognitive decline triggered by advanced age, then their surviving family members may have grounds to claim that the will or other documents are invalid based on their lack of capacity. Typically, to create an estate plan, the testator must be aware of their family relationships and personal assets. They also need to understand the implications of their choices.

If someone experienced profound confusion later in life or had debilitating conditions like schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s disease, then their family members may be able to question whether they could legally draft a will. There is a burden of proof imposed on those contesting legal documents in court. Medical records and testimony from witnesses may be necessary to prove that someone was not in the right state of mind to draft a will. Understanding what could justify a will contest is crucial to those concerned or disappointed about the contents of an estate plan.