Personal Injury, Probate, Employment, & Complex Litigation


The Validity Of My Crazy Uncle's Will

When discussing the unpleasantness of visiting family for the holidays, it is a common refrain to refer to a crazy uncle as an example of what makes these get-togethers uncomfortable. With that common refrain in mind, let’s discuss the validity of a testamentary document if the decedent was legitimately insane.

It is not the law that any diagnosis of insanity invalidates any testamentary document. Even if someone is diagnosed as insane their testamentary documents are presumed to be valid. However, as the Estate of Finkler (1935) 3 Cal.2d 584 noted, there are different types of insanity when discussing mental health in relation to testamentary documents . There is the broad insanity that effects general mental capacity of individuals and there are insane delusions. If the decedent falls into the former category than you would have to do a usual capacity test to determine whether the testamentary document is valid.

If however, the decedent has specific insane delusions, then you do not necessarily have to prove lack of capacity in order to invalidate the document.

If you can prove that at the time of the execution of the testamentary document the decedent was a victim of a hallucination or delusion, and show that but for this hallucination or delusion they would not have executed the specific terms of the testamentary document, then you can invalidate the document.  

Keep in mind, what qualifies as an insane delusion in the eyes of the law maybe different than what you believe to be an insane delusion. Therefore, if you believe that a family member or friend was suffering from an insane delusion at the time they executed their will or trust and that delusion caused them to change their estate plan, you should contact an attorney immediately.