How is testamentary capacity established when executing a will?

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2023 | Estate Planning |

A will is one of the most important legal documents you can ever sign. Through your will, you make known your wishes regarding what you want to happen to your estate when you pass on. If you die without a will, the government would step in and make this decision for you. 

To create a valid will in California, you must fulfill certain legal requirements. Firstly, you must be at least 18 at the time of signing the document. Secondly, you must have the mental competence to sign the will. This is known as the testamentary capacity to execute the will. But do you understand what this means?

Elements of testamentary capacity

Basically, testamentary capacity refers to the mental ability to understand the implications of signing a will.  As far as estate planning goes, testamentary capacity is a legal rather than a medical test. This means that it is up to the court rather than the doctor to determine whether you had the mental ability to sign the will. Thus, your will may be invalidated if it is established that you lacked the testamentary to sign it. 

To be considered mentally competent to execute your will, you must satisfy the following elements:

  • You must comprehend the act of signing a will and the resulting legal implications
  • You must understand the nature and extent of the assets you have included in your will
  • You must understand the extent of your beneficiaries and why you are living specific assets for them. This is especially crucial if you are updating your will and, thus, redistributing your assets or disinheriting some beneficiaries. 
  • You must not be suffering from an advanced stage of a mental disorder like Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia that is likely to impede your judgment. 

Testamentary capacity has everything to do with your situational awareness at the time of signing your will. Understanding California’s wills laws can help you avoid costly missteps when creating and signing your will.