It may be difficult to keep track of the number of times a person signs on the dotted line in his or her lifetime. Buying a house, renewing a driver's license, getting married or using a credit card all require a signature. In most cases, a person's soundness of mind is assumed as he or she signs. However, when it comes to estate planning documents like health care directives, powers of attorney, wills and trusts, there are definite guidelines in place for determining someone's mental clarity.
Testamentary capacity is essential if a will or other estate planning document is to be considered valid. In fact, if someone questions whether the signer understood what he or she was agreeing to, there may be cause for a legal dispute. Those signing wills in Michigan must be aware of what a will is and that the will authorizes the distribution of their property. Signers must also generally understand what they own and who will benefit from the will (for example, family members).
Having this understanding when the will is signed does not necessarily mean the testator is mentally coherent at all times. In fact, the day he or she signs the will may be one of few days in which the signer has testamentary capacity. However, the law requires only that the signer be of sound mind at the time of the signing.
Just because a person is in a nursing home or even in an Alzheimer's unit does not mean he or she is unable to do estate planning. While it is preferable to complete wills and trusts well before one's health begins to decline, a Michigan attorney with experience in estate planning will be compassionate and flexible to work with a family if their loved one has limited good days. Such an attorney can also advise testators and their loved ones on the best ways to prevent a challenge to a will based on testamentary capacity.
Source: thetimesherald.com, "Are you able to sign your estate planning documents?", Matthew M. Wallace, May 19, 2017