Attorneys Stephen Korshak and Lee Karina Dani

When can families contest a will based on a lack of capacity?

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2024 | Probate Litigation |

Most estates proceed through the Florida probate court system without many challenges or issues. However, some estates require more careful review from the courts. Sometimes, surviving family members and presumptive beneficiaries of a Florida resident feel uneasy about their will. The terms included in the document may be drastically different from what someone always said they wanted to do with their assets after their passing, for example. Those who question the testamentary documents of a decedent may sometimes try to challenge or contest those documents in the Florida probate courts.

A will contest is usually only possible in one of a handful of unusual situations. One of the more common involves a claim that an older adult lacks the necessary testamentary capacity to draft an enforceable will. When could family members potentially raise questions about the capacity of a testator to create an estate plan?

When someone experienced cognitive decline

Older adults and those with specific age-related medical conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, may experience cognitive decline later in life. They may have a hard time remembering where they are and other key details about their lives. Therefore, they may lack the necessary capacity to create testamentary documents.

In Florida, the law allows anyone over the age of 18 and of sound mind to draft documents. If someone cannot remember who is in their family or what assets they own, they may not be in a position to create legally-binding documents. The same is true in scenarios where people cannot understand the contents of the will they drafted or intend to sign. Oftentimes, decline due to age is the reason that people question someone’s cognitive ability and testamentary capacity. However, sometimes mental health issues could also provide grounds for a will contest based on questions of someone’s capacity.

Family members contesting a will in Florida probate courts have to gather evidence supporting their allegations. Witness testimony and medical records are often among the most valuable pieces of evidence that people can use in a capacity-related will contest.

Understanding when a will might not hold up in probate court could help people stand up for their rights and the true legacy intentions of someone who has recently died.