When deciding how you want to distribute your assets upon your passing, you can make the process as simple or as complex as you wish. The key is to utilizing whatever tools and processes make your vision of the future come true. For many Californians, this means creating a simple will to leave assets to those identified loved ones.
The idea of creating a will is simple enough, but even these simple documents can be scrutinized under a powerful legal lens. For example, one issue that arises with regard to wills is competency. A will is only deemed valid if the individual who created and signed it was of sound mind at the time. If he or she was not, then the will can be deemed void. This means that any directions contained within the document will be ignored.
So, when wills are contested after a testator's death, a lot of investigation is undertaken to determine the testator's state of mind at the time of the will's creation. Medical and pharmacological records may be analyzed, as, too, may any documents related to nursing home or psychiatric care. The goal is to determine whether the testator understood that he or she was making a will and that he or she understood the extent of his or her estate, as well as to whom and how those assets would be transferred upon death. As we have discussed previously on this blog, even those who are deemed to have been competent can also be found to have been subjected to undue influence and fraud.
The best way to deal with competency issues is to avoid them in the first place. This means having witnesses who can verify your mental state at the time of the document's creation, and it may mean taking certain steps to ensure that there is a documentary trail showing that your mental health is unquestionable. If you'd like to learn more about how to avoid this issue through careful preparation, then please consider speaking with a qualified estate planning attorney.