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How To Prove A Lack Of Mental Capacity


There are many reasons to contest a will, trust, or other aspects of a person’s estate plan. Of them all, a lack of mental capacity is one of the most common. Proving mental incapacity requires carefully evaluating one’s ability to understand, process, retain, and communicate certain information that is necessary to make important decisions. This evaluation is critical when trying to obtain legal authority to manage a person’s affairs on their behalf. Below, our estate and trust litigation lawyer explains further.

What is a Lack of Mental Capacity? 

In order for a person to make informed decisions about their own affairs, they must have mental capacity. Severe learning disabilities, dementia, mental health illnesses, brain injuries, intoxication, and strokes can all affect an individual’s ability to make their own decisions. When a person’s mental capacity is disturbed or impaired due to any of these reasons, they may not be able to make certain decisions during that time.

Proving a Lack of Mental Capacity 

Establishing a lack of mental capacity can be challenging, especially if the individual has mild to moderate periods of lucidity. In Florida, the courts will generally presume that a person has the mental capacity to handle their own affairs and make important decisions. Due to this, the party that wants to contest any part of an estate plan has the burden of proof to show a person lacked mental capacity.

On the other hand, if it was declared that a person had a lack of mental capacity before they signed a will or trust, the court will presume that they were mentally incapable. To determine a person’s mental capacity at the time of executing any part of an estate plan, the court may consider the following:

  • Any medical diagnosis of psychosis or dementia that can support mental incapacity, although this may not serve on proof without other evidence
  • Eyewitnesses who can offer important testimony about observations they made about the person’s behavior and any indicator of their mental capacity at the time
  • Legal tools such as the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Legal Capacity Questionnaire while wills and other estate planning documents are being signed

What Happens if One is Declared Mentally Incompetent 

If a court determines that a person lacks the mental capacity to make their own decisions, a conservatorship or guardianship may have to be established. Conservators and guardians are appointed to make decisions on behalf of someone who is incapacitated. There are different types of conservatorships and guardianships but the courts will generally try to choose the least restrictive one that provides the individual with as much autonomy as possible.

Our Estate and Trust Litigation Lawyer in Florida Can Help 

If you need to prove a lack of mental capacity, or defend against unfair arguments for it, our Florida estate and trust litigation lawyers can help. At Legacy Protection Lawyers, LLP, our attorneys are dedicated to helping our clients obtain the best possible outcome and we will put that expertise to work for you. Call us now at 727-471-5868 or contact us online to request a consultation and to get the legal help you need.




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