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The laws in all states establish minimum requirements for the creation of last will and testament. The most basic, essential of this requirements is that the person making a will must be competent to do so at the time the instrument is signed.
In terms of competency to create a will, a person must generally know the extent and nature of his or her property, intend to make a last will and testament and understand to whom the property passes through the will at the time of that individual’s death.
Unfortunately, situations exist in which a person who is not competent executes a last will and testament. A person with an interest in the estate of a deceased person who may not have been competent when a will was signed needs to understand what to do in such a situation. Keep in mind that not all people will have the legal ability to formally raise a concern about the competency of a person at the time a will was signed. An example of a person who has an interest in the estate and who can raise this type of concern would be a close relative of the deceased person.
Identify and Interview Witnesses to Will Signing
A key step in addressing the matter of competence of a deceased person at the time a will was signed is identifying the witnesses to that event. The reality is that the perception of these individuals regarding the competency of the individual who has died will carry a great deal of weight when considering the validity of a will.
Obtain Medical Records
Obtaining medical records is not an easy task and likely will require an order for the probate court. Nonetheless, medical records can be very helpful in determining the health and mental state of an individual at the time he or she signed a last will and testament. On a related note, statements from health care professionals that provided services to the deceased person at the time the will was signed also provide compelling evidence regarding that individual’s competency.
Because of the complexity of challenging a will and raising an issue that a person was not competent at the time it was signed, obtaining legal representation can be crucial. There are probate and estate attorneys that have experience in dealing with issues that include the competency of the deceased person at the time the will was signed.