Testamentary Capacity Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Testamentary Capacity, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Testamentary Capacity?

It is a legal term referred to persons’ full senses and mental sanity to have confirmed and signed the will after understanding what his assets comprises of and what he/she is doing by creating a will. He understands in full mental capacity who is he naming the assets to and how are they related to him and what repurcution it may have later.Normally adults are presumed to be capable enough to create will.

History and Meaning of Testamentary Capacity

Testamentary capacity refers to a person's legal and mental ability to create a valid will. In other words, it is the individual’s ability to understand the nature, extent, and value of their assets and the ability to comprehend the consequences of making a will. The concept of testamentary capacity dates back to Roman law, which required that a person be of sound mind, memory, and understanding to make a valid will.

Generally, an individual is presumed to have testamentary capacity if they are of legal age, not under undue influence, and have the mental capacity to understand the property or estate they own and be able to communicate an understanding of how they want to distribute their assets.

Examples of Testamentary Capacity

  1. An elderly individual with a history of dementia attempts to create a will leaving their entire estate to a complete stranger. The individual's will is challenged for lack of testamentary capacity as they did not understand the implications of their actions.
  2. A person creates a will but did not understand what assets they had, and it was revealed that they had confusion and mental health issues. This leaves the validity of the will in doubt and courts may find that he lacked testamentary capacity.
  3. In another case, even though an individual was diagnosed with mental health issues, his will was deemed valid because he had a moment of clarity and understood what he was doing when he executed his will.

Legal Terms Similar to Testamentary Capacity

  1. Capacity to Contract: Refers to a person's legal ability to enter into a contract knowingly and voluntarily.
  2. Competency to Stand Trial: Refers to an individual's mental capacity to stand trial for a crime.
  3. Mental Health Evaluation: A mental health evaluation conducted to determine an individual's capacity to make legal decisions.