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Lack of Testamentary Capacity to Make a Will in New York

Testamentary capacity is a legal term that generally refers to the mental and cognitive ability of an individual to create or revoke a will. In New York, a testator must have the mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of their actions when creating a will. This means that they must have the ability to understand the property they own, the persons who would normally inherit their property, and the effect of the will they are making. Testamentary capacity is important to ensure that a will is considered valid. If a testator does not have the necessary mental capacity to make a will, then their will may be contested in a will contest. If the court determines that the testator did not have testamentary capacity, it will invalidate the will. Proving a lack of testamentary capacity can be challenging, but with the help of an experienced New York will contest lawyer at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, it is possible to build a strong case.

Signs of Lack of Testamentary Capacity

The lack of testamentary capacity can manifest in various ways. Some of the signs of lack of testamentary capacity include:

  • Confusion or disorientation: A testator may be unable to understand the nature and consequences of their actions when creating a will.
  • Memory loss: A testator may be unable to remember the people who would inherit their property or the property they own.
  • Mental illness: A testator may suffer from a mental illness that impairs their ability to make rational decisions.
  • Influence from others: A testator may be coerced or unduly influenced by others to make or modify their will in a way that is not reflective of their true intentions.

Lack a capacity can be challenging to prove and may require a review of medical records, interviewing family and friends, and testimony from experts. With this type of case, consulting with an experienced New York will contest lawyer is essential.

Consequences of Lack of Testamentary Capacity

If the Surrogate’s Court determines that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity at the time they made their will, the court will invalidate the will. If there is a valid prior will, the court would probate that will instead. Otherwise, the court will distribute assets according to New York’s rules of intestate succession. To learn more about intestate succession, contact an experienced will contest attorney in New York.

Notable New York Cases Involving Lack of Testamentary Capacity
  • In re Last Will & Testament of Mallin, 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 32032 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2016): Corbin, the decedent's sister and sole distributee, as well as members of the Mallin family. The objections, grounded in lack of due execution, lack of testamentary capacity, fraud, and undue influence, presented a multifaceted legal challenge. However, the court delved into the crucial aspect of testamentary capacity, emphasizing that dementia or illness alone does not automatically negate capacity, but rather the key is the testator's competence at the time of making the will. Conflicting evidence regarding the decedent's mental state, including diagnoses of bipolar disorder and brain tumors, prompted the court to conclude that material issues of fact existed, denying summary judgment on testamentary capacity.
  • People v. Marra, 2017 N.Y. Slip Op. 1456 (N.Y. App. Div. 2017). The court denies the petitioner's motion for summary judgment dismissing objections to probate based on lack of testamentary capacity in the case of Hannah Mallin. The Mallin family members, objectants to the will, argue that the decedent lacked testamentary capacity due to her medical conditions, including bipolar disorder, a brain tumor, and vascular dementia. The treating psychiatrist, Dr. Steven Fayer, provides conflicting assessments, initially stating the decedent was competent at the time of executing the will but later diagnosing vascular dementia. Other medical professionals present varying opinions on the decedent's cognitive state. The court finds that the objectants have presented enough evidence to raise a material issue of fact regarding testamentary capacity, emphasizing that capacity is determined at the time of making the will and can be affected by medical conditions. As a result, the motion for summary judgment on the testamentary capacity objection is denied.
Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you believe that a loved one lacked testamentary capacity at the time of making a will, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. A skilled will contest attorney serving New York can help you assess your legal options and guide you through the process of contesting the will. With the right legal help, you can ensure that the testator's true intentions are carried out, and the estate is distributed according to their wishes. Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Manhattan, Long Island, Nassau County, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Suffolk County, Bronx, and Westchester County.

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Mr. Bilkis handled both my father and mother's estate issues through very difficult times he was compassionate kind and understanding. In fact the whole firm showed great empathy. Despite the emotional hard time we were having that quickly and efficiently handle all the matters that were necessary to get us the result we desired. Can't recommend them enough. B.B.
From the very first phone call to Stephen Bilkis' office, the staff was extremely polite and helpful in assisting me. Mr. Bilkis was honest and upfront with me from the beginning in what he projected the outcome of my case would be; in the end we got better results than either of us anticipated. He was very genuine and compassionate in understanding my situation and how this legal matter could effect not only myself but my family as well. I highly recommend this law firm and will most definitely continue using them for any future legal needs. Jarrett
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