What is the Ohio standard for proving testamentary capacity?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2023 | Will Contests

An individual’s estate plan essentially outlines their wishes for their legacy. The instructions that they leave for their loved ones will determine what happens to their property and also what kind of support their closest family members will receive as a result of their estate.

Occasionally, those who survive a decedent will question the validity of their estate planning paperwork. Sometimes, those questions may lead to probate litigation. One of the more common reasons that families in Ohio take their concerns about an estate plan to probate court is the belief that a testator may have lacked testamentary capacity.

At its most basic, the claim that someone lacked capacity means that they have experienced cognitive decline that prevents them from creating legally binding documents. In Ohio, there is a very specific standard applied in such cases.

What factors determine testamentary capacity in Ohio?

The Ohio probate courts have previously had to rule on cases where family members have questioned if someone had the mental acuity to put together a will. The courts recognize four standards that directly influence whether or not someone has the necessary capacity to create new documents or update existing ones.

The first is that the adult understands the basic impact of estate planning and what the process means for them. That dovetails with the second, which is that the testator must understand what property will comprise their estate when they die. The third requirement is that someone must be able to remember the people they intend to name in their documents. Finally, the individual must have the ability to mentally consider their relationships with others.

Cognitive decline, dementia, severe mental health challenges and Alzheimer’s disease are all conditions that may prevent someone from meeting all four of those crucial legal standards. Provided that family members can establish that someone does not meet these crucial standards, it may be possible for them to contest a will successfully and have the courts set it aside.

Seeking legal guidance and learning about the specific requirements for will contests in Ohio can help families better evaluate whether pursuing probate litigation would be worthwhile given their specific circumstances.


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