Michigan law has a very specific test for determining whether a testator (the person singing a will) had testamentary capacity when she signed her will.
There are four requirements, which all must be met, to establish testamentary capacity:
- The testator has the ability to understand that she is signing a document that determines how her property will be distributed after her death.
- The testator has the ability to comprehend the character and the amount of her property.
- The testator knows the "natural objects of her bounty" - she understands which family members would normally inherit her property.
- The testator has the ability to understand in a reasonable manner the general nature and effect of her act in signing the will.
The law presumes that a person signing a will has testamentary capacity, so anyone who is challenging that presumption has the burden of establishing that incapacity to the satisfaction of a probate court. Probate courts are naturally reluctant to invalidate a will. In one Michigan case, the court found that even though the testator had dementia, she was still capable of understanding the nature and effect of signing her will. The court said that "weakness of mind and forgetfulness are insufficient to invalidate a will."
If you are worried about whether your parents were competent when they signed their will, it is important to get advice from an experienced estate planning attorney. Contact us for a free consultation.