Analyzing Testamentary Capacity

A will or trust is void if the person making it lacked sound mind at the time of execution. Watson v. Watson, 562 S.W.2d 329, 331 (Mo. 1978). In Missouri, an individual who has enough mind and memory to understand the ordinary affairs of life, knows the nature and extent of his/her property and who are the natural objects of his/her bounty, knows his/her natural obligation to those persons, and knows that he/she is giving his/her property to the persons in his/her will or trust, has testamentary capacity. Crum v. Crum, 132 S.W. 1070, 1073 (Mo. 1910).
When challenging whether an individual has sufficient capacity to sign a will/trust, the challenger must adduce some substantial evidence that the person singing the will/trust lacked the requisite mental capacity at the time of execution. Rhoads v. Chambers, 759 S.W.2d 398, 402 (Mo. Ct. App. 1988). In making this showing, occurrences and circumstances close to the time of the execution, both before and after, which tend to shed light on the issue of testamentary incapacity at the time of execution, are permissible. Glover v. Bruce, 265 S.W.2d 346, 352 (Mo. 1954).
From a challenger’s perspective, however, it is important to recognize that mere sickness, old age and eccentric conduct, taken alone, are insufficient to invalidate a will or trust. Morse v. Volz, 808 S.W.2d 424, 430-32 (Mo. Ct. App. 1991). Similarly, evidence that the mental condition uniformly and consistently affected the individual signing the document is  important in neutralizing any defense that while the individual was generally sick he/she was lucid at the moment of signing.
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