Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

One of the main reasons for a will dispute is mental capacity – in other words, the testator was in the wrong mental state to be crafting a will, and it therefore doesn’t accurately reflect their wishes. A common disease that can affect a person’s mental capacity is Alzheimer’s disease – known to affect the brain and the memory.

To give an example, if someone has made promises or agreements prior to writing the will, and the will then contradicts those promises, an affected mental state could very well be the reason for the sudden change. The process of contesting a will on grounds of mental capacity, however, is not as simple as it may first appear.

The Role of Medical Evidence

In order to determine whether someone was of sound mind while writing a will, medical evidence is going to play a crucial role. This involves assessments conducted by qualified professionals – such as psychiatrists or neuropsychologists – that evaluate the testator’s mental capacity at the time the will was being executed.

Documentation will also need to be included. Any cognitive impairments or mental health conditions that could feasibly impact the testator’s decision making must be documented, with the medical experts responsible for documentation available to be called upon in court. By having this kind of evidence, courts can then consider the medical health of the testator alongside the legal criteria of will writing, determining whether the will upholds the testator’s wishes and the interest of all concerned parties are protected.

Can it Only Be Proactive?

If a testator was suffering with dementia, Alzheimer’s, a traumatic brain injury, or any other kind of mental health disorder, it’s likely that their medical records will be readily available to back a contested will. But this is obviously a proactive judgement, rather than reactive. In other words, proper diagnosis and documentation must be obtained while the testator is still alive, and ideally, trusted professionals and close advisors should be consulted during the will writing process.

If a testator’s health condition is undiagnosed or poorly documented, however, that doesn’t mean the case is void. Other forms of evidence and testimony that might be considered includes witness testimony – individuals who interacted with the testator or saw signs of cognitive impairment – and circumstantial evidence – including inconsistencies with the will or indications of undue influence. The absence of medical records will certainly pose more challenges for will contesters, but everything must be taken into account in order to reach a fair and just conclusion.

Conclusion

Speaking of conclusions! The role of medical evidence plays a big part in contesting a will, and in order to retrieve as much evidence as possible to back a case, it’s important to get into contact with solicitors who are familiar with the process. The process itself is complex, even with thorough evidence, which makes legal advice and experience-backed strategies invaluable. With the correct expertise and support, contestors can increase their chances of a successful outcome and ensure that the testator’s true wishes are met.

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