I’ve heard it said that there is not a remedy for every wrong, but it has always troubled me that a person "done out" of an inheritance had no recourse. Unless the person could fit themselves into the very limited circumstances of a third party beneficiary, most of these "disinherited" persons had no remedy agaisnt the person
Writing your will is not a do-it-yourself project.
Words are important. The words that are in your will are very important. That is one of the reasons you should not try to write your own will. Even preprinted forms and computer programs can lead to problems. Take the case of Mr. Tate, recently decided…
Jonathan G. Blattmachr, a partner at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCoy LLP, has published "Reducing Estate and Trust Litigation Through Disclosure, In Terrorem Clauses, Mediation and Arbitration" in the Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution, 9 Cardozo J. Conflict Resol. 237 (2008).
He suggests six methods to reduce the risk of litigation with respect…
What a great idea! Check out this site: eDivvyUp Its an online auction platform to use to equitably divide tangible personal property among beneficiaries.
"eDivvyup is the leading online auction site for equitable property distribution. The concept was created to assist Estate Planners, Estate Executors or other individuals dealing with the equitable distribution of…
How many families do you know who fought over the settlement of their Mom and Dad’s estate? In my experience, these family feuds are often over things – not money. Who gets the sterling flatware and who gets the drop-leaf table are points of contention that rip apart the family fabric.
Mom and Dad, why…
This excellent article published in The American Journal of Psychiatry (164:722-727, May 2007) gives advice on how to document your client’s capacity. Check it out:
Assessment of Testamentary Capacity and Vulnerability to Undue Influence by Kenneth I. Shulman, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., Carole A. Cohen, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., Felice C. Kirsh, LL.B., Ian M. Hull, B.A., LL.B., and Pamela…
Growing Old and Issues of Diminished Capacity
The law assumes that adult individuals have mental capacity, that is, they are capable of making rational decisions on their own behalf. Note we say they are “capable” of making rational decisions. The law doesn’t expect or require that they actually make rational decisions. Competent individuals of all ages, old and young, have the right to make foolish, eccentric or idiosyncratic decisions. For better or worse, all of us are free to make bad decisions.
A persons’s capacity may change from day to day (or even during the day), depending on the course of the illness, fatigue and the effects of medication. Some folks have good days and bad days. Some are more alert in the morning; some have their best time in the afternoon. Legal competency is not something that a person either has or doesn’t have –it can be quite variable.
Whether or not a person is legally competent depends on the purpose for which the capacity is being determined. The law provides a different standard of competency for 1) making contracts, 2) making wills, 3) having a guardian appointed, 4) and giving informed consent to medical treatment.
Whether or not a person is competent is a legal determination, not a medical one. Medical testimony is important, and is always sought by a court in making the determination of capacity. Since the law has many different defined standards depending on the action being taken, the determination of whether or not a person is competent to do a certain thing is always a legal decision.
What surprises most people is that the capacity to make a will, called testamentary capacity, is the lowest level of capacity in the law. All that is required is that the person making the will (1) understand in a general away, the nature of his property, (2) knows who are the “natural objects of his bounty,” that is, the persons who would normally be his heirs, and (3) must be able to comprehend that he or she is making a will.
A person who has had a stroke, or is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, may still have sufficient capacity to make a will even though there is some impairment of speech, some impairment of thought processes, and/or some physical impairment. The fact that a client does not know the year or the name of the President does not necessarily mean that she can not make a will. Since signing a will does not require a great deal of capacity, the fact that the next day the person does not remember the signing of a will does not invalidate the will if he had the minimum required capacity the day before when he signed it.
For your clients who ask this question:
LITIGATION, n. A machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
When people you love die, you think you’ll need a long time to get over it. Reading the will may change your mind. If…
We usually think of a person’s will as a financial document used to make sure his or her estate is distributed according to his or her wishes. The will can also be used as a constructive tool or a destructive weapon to reach other goals, which often do not involve money.
Eddy M. Elmer, in…