Common Types of “Lack of Capacity” Claims in Probate Litigation

Probate is a necessary process following the passing of a loved one in verifying and carrying out the deceased’s will. Probate litigation can occur, however, when one party disputes the validity of the will.

One such catalyst for probate litigation is when an interested party claims that the testator who wrote the will had a “lack of capacity” at the time of writing. A lack of capacity claim can have its basis in one of three particularly common types, so it is important to know these noteworthy types of claims to help ensure a favorable outcome in probate litigation.

Lacking soundness of mind

A person objecting to the validity of the will during probate might claim that the testator was not of sound mind when writing or amending the will. This can imply that the testator did not fully understand the extent or value of their estate nor the implications of their decisions at the time, perhaps due to the effects of a physiological or mental condition.

Coercion or intimidation

If there is evidence that the testator made changes to their will under coercion, intimidation or duress, then some or all of the will may be invalid. A beneficiary to the will may resort to such underhanded tactics in an effort to secure a larger inheritance.

Emotional manipulation

Other forms of emotional manipulation beyond intimidation can include exerting guilt on the testator or seeking pity. If proof exists that emotional manipulation altered the testator’s mental state to the point of “lacking capacity,” then the probate court might render the will invalid.

The probate process often proceeds smoothly and without complication, but certain factors can lead to more extensive probate litigation. If a lack of capacity becomes apparent, then it is important to see the matter to its rightful conclusion.