Including proof of capacity might minimize estate disputes

The last thing that family and friends may want after the loss of a loved one is a will contest. Yet disagreements may arise, especially if a last will and testament is not considered to reflect the true intentions of the grantor. If familial relations were strained prior to the grantor’s passing, this risk may be heightened.

There is a proactive step that can be included with an individual’s estate planning. Called a Medical Certificate of Capacity, the document serves as legal proof of full capacity after the individual’s doctor has signed it. Copies of the executed document can also be forwarded to one’s attorney and included with one's estate plan. Since circumstances can change, updating the certificate each year might be advisable.

However, capacity is not an absolute guarantee against a will contest. For example, a transfer of real property or other assets to one heir at the exclusion of all others might raise questions. If it was an individual’s specific intention to disinherit all but one of his or her heirs, it might be wise to include documentation to that effect.

Fortunately, a will is an opportunity to set forth many details about an individual’s intentions. Since witnesses are generally required to sign the will, a court may afford a validly executed will some degree of deference. Yet wills can also be about more than just circumventing potential disputes among heirs. When combined with other estate planning tools, such as trusts, even more personal values or instructions can be passed along.

Source: Washington Post, “How to plan for a less rocky transfer of your home to your children in your will,” Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin, June 13, 2016


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