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What Happens if Someone Contests a Will Based on Lack of Testamentary Capacity?

 Posted on April 07, 2023 in Estate Planning and Administration

Hood County Estate Planning LawyerTexas law allows individuals to dictate how their possessions and property are distributed upon their death. A last will and testament is the most common estate planning document used for this purpose. However, a will must be valid in order for the court to follow the directions contained in the document. There are many different reasons why an individual can contest, or challenge, the validity of a will. Arguing that the will-maker, or testator, did not have the testamentary capacity is a common reason for will contests in Texas.

What is Testamentary Capacity?

Like any legal document, a will must be entered into willingly. If an individual does not have the cognitive ability to understand their will and what they are agreeing to, the will is not valid. If someone contests a will on the basis of lack of testamentary capacity, they are essentially arguing that the testator did not understand what was happening when they created and signed the will.

Concerns about testamentary capacity are most commonly seen with elderly individuals, people with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, or individuals with mental health conditions.

Who Can Contest a Will?

Texas law limits who can contest the validity of a will in court. Typically, only individuals who have standing can contest a will. This includes heirs who would receive less under the current will than they would receive under intestate succession and beneficiaries who would receive less under the current will than they would under a previous will.

In other words, if someone is negatively affected by a will, they have the right to challenge the will. However, courts do not disregard a will just because someone contests it. There must be sufficient evidence that the testator did not have testamentary capacity.

Who Has the Burden of Proof in a Will Contest?

The burden of proof in a will contest depends on the timing of the contest. The burden of proof typically falls to the decedent’s personal representative or the executor of the estate if the will has not been entered into probate yet. The personal representative must prove that the testator had the cognitive ability to understand what he or she was doing and the implications of those decisions.

However, if the will has already been probated, the person contesting the validity of the will has the burden of proof. In other words, the person claiming that the will is invalid must prove that the will is invalid.

Evidence in a will contest based on an allegation of lack of testamentary capacity may include:

  • Medical records showing the testator’s mental capacity

  • Statements from the testator’s doctor and other medical professionals

  • Statements from the testator’s lawyer

  • Reasons for any unexpected provisions in a will, such as the reasons that the testator intentionally left out certain family members     

Our Hood County Probate Lawyers for Help During a Will Contest

If someone has contested your loved one’s will, contact our Tarrant County estate administration lawyers for help. Our firm is highly experienced in will contests and probate litigation. Call 817-645-1717 for a confidential consultation.



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