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Understanding Testamentary Capacity in an Illinois Estate Dispute

 Posted on April 26, 2023 in Estate Planning Blog

DuPage County Estate Planning LawyerA last will and testament gives an individual the right to specifically dictate how his or her property is distributed to beneficiaries after his or her death. Like any other contract, a will must be entered into willingly in order for it to be legally binding. If someone is forced, coaxed, or tricked into signing a will, the will is not valid.

Testamentary capacity refers to the legal requirement that a person must have mental capacity in order to make a valid will. In Illinois, a person must be of sound mind and memory to execute a legally binding will.

Questions regarding testamentary capacity are often posed when a will is contested. If a family member or beneficiary believes that a testator did not fully understand what he or she was agreeing to in a will, the person can formally challenge the validity of the will in court. The court must then decide whether the testator had the mental capacity to understand the will's contents and implications when he or she made the will.

Elements of Testamentary Capacity

Alzheimer's Disease, dementia, mental illness, severe physical illness, and being under the influence of drugs or alcohol can impair a person's mental capacity. In the context of estate planning, a person has testamentary capacity, or the ability to make a valid will, if the following conditions are met:

  • The testator understands the type and value of his or her property. - The person who makes the will must have the capacity to understand what assets are contained in the will and what those assets are worth.

  • The testator understands the consequences of making a will. - The testator must understand that the will determines how his or her property is distributed upon death and who will receive those assets. The testator must also understand that the will can replace any prior wills.

  • The testator understands who his or her beneficiaries are. - The person making the will must be able to identify those people who are designated as beneficiaries.

  • The testator has the ability to plan for the disposition of his or her assets. - The individual making the will must be able to understand how their assets are currently held and devise a plan for distribution after death.

  • The testator understands the "natural objects of his bounty" - The person making the will must understand who his or her beneficiaries would likely be based on his or her relationships, such as family members and close friends.

  • The testator is not under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating drugs. - A person who is impaired by drugs or alcohol does not have the requisite mental capacity to make a valid will.

Contact our DuPage County Contested Estate Lawyer

If you believe that your loved one did not have testamentary capacity when they created a will, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. At Stock, Carlson & Asso. LLC, we help families protect the integrity of their loved one's estate plan. Call our Wheaton contested estate lawyers at 630-665-2500. Set up a confidential consultation today.



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