Understanding testamentary capacity: What is it, and do you have it?

On Behalf of | Aug 5, 2021 | Estate Planning

While you’re going through the process of working on your estate planning, it’s a good idea to learn more about “testamentary capacity” and what it could mean for you in the future. Having the mental capacity to complete a task means that you are capable of understanding what you’re doing and of explaining that to someone else. With a good mental capacity, you’ll remember what you did and why you did it, too.

Legally speaking, someone with testamentary capacity can make an estate plan, change their will and handle other issues on their own. Someone without the mental capacity to do so would not be allowed, because they may not understand the implications of the changes that they’re making.

Why does mental capacity matter in elder and estate law?

In elder and estate law, understanding mental capacity matters because it dictates if you have the right to make decisions for yourself or if those decisions have to be made by your personal representative. 

A patient can only be deemed mentally incapacitated if they have an inability to form or understand rational decisions. Patients cannot be deemed to lack capacity just because someone disagrees with their option or if the patient makes a bad decision with all the provided information. People are, by law, entitled to make any decision they want (even unwise ones) once they have all the information so long as they understand their actions.

A physician determines mental capacity. If you want to be sure that major changes in your estate plan are preserved and respected, it may be worth having a physician deem you mentally capable and including that information with the update.