Testamentary Capacity in Washington State
Testamentary capacity is another way of describing the soundness of mind required of a “testator,” which is the term for a person who executes a Will. Testamentary capacity is a requirement to execute a valid will in the State of Washington.
In Washington State, testamentary capacity can be considered met when the following occurs:
[A] person is possessed of testamentary capacity if at the time he assumes to execute a will he (or she) has sound mind and memory to understand the transaction in which that person is then engaged, to comprehend generally the nature and extent of the property which constitutes his estate and of which he is contemplating disposition to recollect the objects of his bounty.
If “lack of capacity” is used as the basis for a contest to your will, the court would look at evidence of the testator’s mental or physical condition. Then they may examine the physical condition of the testator’s will document, as well as a testator’s activity to ascertain whether or not this individual had sufficient capacity at the time he or she executed the will.
These factors and the evidence being reviewed to evaluate them would be highly subjective when any person whose mental or physical capacity is being questioned. For that reason, we have decided to refrain from citing real examples for this explanation.
Testamentary capacity can change from one day to the next.
Let’s say that, for example, an older person with dementia is currently having a “great day” and is demonstrating that they have a clear mind and good memory. In this circumstance, the court could find that this individual had sufficient testamentary capacity – though this would often only be done after careful consideration of all circumstances surrounding the case. Furthermore, any person who has demonstrated some form of impairment to their speech or thought process (or other physical condition) can still possess sufficient capacity to execute a Will effectively.
The requirements to sign a Durable Power of Attorney differ from the requirements for testamentary capacity. Therefore, a person may be capable of signing a Durable Power of Attorney even if he or she cannot sign a Will.
If you find yourself having more questions than answers at this point, we would be happy to walk your family through the ins and outs of Testamentary capacity and how it could affect your Estate Plans. Please contact our office at 509-328-2150 to set up a confidential consultation with our experienced estate planning attorneys.
To read more about the original case that created the precedent for testamentary capacity in Washington State, check out this article from CourtListener.com.