What “Testamentary Capacity” Means

Posted on: Jul 20, 2017

Testamentary capacity is the soundness of mind required of a “testator,” a person who is executing a Will. In Washington State testamentary capacity is met when, “A person … if at the time he [or she] assumes to execute a will he [or she] has sufficient mind and memory to understand the transaction in which he [or she] is then engaged, to comprehend generally the nature and extent of the property which constitutes his [or her] estate and of which he  [or she] is contemplating disposition to recollect the objects of his [or her] bounty.” In re Bottger’s Estate, 14 Wn.2d 676, 685, 129 P.2d 518 (1942).
The Bottger ruling adopts the above as the standard by which Washington courts must measure the facts of each case when a testator’s capacity to execute a valid Will is in question. When someone challenges the validity of a Will by citing lack of capacity of the testator, the court will look to evidence of the testator’s mental and physical condition, the testator’s actions at the time of execution, and determine whether or not the testator had sufficient capacity to execute the Will. A court will invalidate a will if it finds that the testator lacked capacity.
Testamentary capacity can change from day to day. For example, if a dementia patient is having a “good day,” and demonstrates clarity of mind and memory then a court may find that he or she possessed testamentary capacity. Further, a person demonstrating some impairment of speech or thought process, or some physical impairments, may still have sufficient capacity to execute a valid Will.
The requirements to sign a Durable Power of Attorney differ from the requirements for testamentary capacity. Therefore, a person may be able to sign a Durable Power of Attorney even if he or she cannot sign a Will.
Elder Law Group PLLC Focuses On The Particular Needs Of Seniors
At Elder Law Group PLLC we know that making arrangements for the eventuality of aging, Long-Term Care, and mental or physical incapacity can be very stressful and emotional. We strive to remove some of the burden from you and your family by helping you create an Estate Plan that addresses your needs in detail.
Our firm offers legal services and guidance in the following areas:

We invite you to learn more about our team here, and read what our clients have to say about us here.
Stay in the Know – subscribe to our newsletter that offers news and updates on Elder Law and information regarding challenges facing today’s seniors.
Elder Law Group PLLC has been recognized as one of the fastest growing law firms in the U.S. as an Annual Law Firm 500 Award honoree. Contact us or call (509) 468-0551 (Spokane office), or (509) 579-0206 (Tri-Cities office), for personal, compassionate, and competent guidance on the particular needs of seniors and their families.
 

Article Categories