Competency: How to Know When Someone Is Capable of Signing a Will

Competency: How to Know When Someone Is Capable of Signing a Will

Grandpa Joe’s family knew he needed to make a Will. He had even asked his granddaughter, Abigail, to take him to an estate planning lawyer. But he had also wandered out of the house in his pajamas and called Abigail by his late wife’s name several times. They were concerned about his competency. How could they know whether he was capable of signing his Will?

Due in part to our rapidly aging Baby Boomer generation, competency issues may become more commonplace.

What Makes a Valid Will?

To make a valid Will in Florida, an individual (the testator) must be:

  • At least 18 years old or an emancipated minor; and
  • Of sound mind.

Which brings us to our problem: How can we know if someone is “of sound mind” when they prepare and sign their Will?

General Competency

People are generally considered competent to sign a Will if they:

  • Understand what a Will is,
  • Remember the type of property they own and how much,
  • Remember who their descendants are; and
  • Know how their property will be distributed to heirs.

Grandpa Joe is definitely over 18 years of age. He seems to understand that the purpose of his Will is to dispose of his property after he is gone. Despite occasionally calling people by the wrong name, Grandpa Joe recognizes his relatives a majority of the time. Finally, he understands and has stated who should get his property after he passes away. It’s very likely that he is competent to sign his Will.

Assessing Capacity

A lawyer preparing estate planning documents may assess a testator’s capacity before allowing the individual to sign any important documents, including a Will. Witnesses and family members can also express concern if they notice competency problems before a Will is signed.

Call to Discuss Estate Planning for You or a Loved One.

Attorney John Mangan is board certified in Wills, Trusts & Estates by the Florida Bar. Please call us at 772-324-9050 or use our Contact Form to set up an appointment. We help clients throughout Florida, including Stuart, Palm City, Hobe Sound, Jupiter, and Port St. Lucie.

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