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How Do You Contest an Individual’s “Lack of Testamentary Capacity” to Execute a Will in Tennessee?

Posted on Sep 27 2015 2:43PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

One way to contest a will in Tennessee is to assert that the decedent had a “lack of testamentary capacity”.  Basically, this is an assertion that the individual who executed the will was not actually competent to execute the will.  Tennessee has many cases that discuss this claim in the context, most often, of a will contest situation.

 

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has said the following about what is required to establish “lack of testamentary capacity” contest to a will:

 

The law requires that the testator's mind, at the time the will is executed, must be sufficiently sound to enable him or her to know and understand the force and consequence of the act of making the will.  American Trust & Banking Co. v. Williams, 225 S.W.2d 79, 83 (1948). The testator must have an intelligent consciousness of the nature and effect of the act, a knowledge of the property possessed and an understanding of the disposition to be made. Goodall v. Crawford, 611 S.W.2d 602, 604 (Tenn. App. 1981). While evidence regarding factors such as physical weakness or disease, old age, blunt perception or failing mind and memory is admissible on the issue of testamentary capacity, it is not conclusive and the testator is not thereby rendered incompetent if her mind is sufficiently sound to enable her to know and understand what she is doing. American Trust, supra; 79 Am.Jur.2d Wills § 77 (1975).

 

If the individual who executes a Will does not meet the above factors, then the Will can be attacked under a theory of “lack of testamentary capacity”.  Medical evidence and testimony is best to be able to attack a Will under this theory.  If a doctor is willing to testify that the individual did not appreciate what they were doing at the time of the Will, then that could form a strong basis to defeat a Will.  One thing you can do to prevent a Will contest over this issues is to have a doctor assess the individual around the time they do their Will to make sure they have the mental capacity to make a will.


If you are going to pursue this kind of theory in Tennessee, then you need a competent Tennessee litigation attorney who handles Will contest cases in a probate litigation setting.

 

Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Wills and Estates blog.

TAGS: Wills, Will Contest, Tennessee Probate Law
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. Contact Jason at 615-540-1004 or jlee@burrowlee.com for an initial consultation on wills estate planning and probate issues.

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Tennessee Wills and Estates Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com

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