The difference between mental health and mental competency

On Behalf of | Aug 8, 2022 | Estate Litigation

Mental health issues differ from mental competency, which reflects a need for creating a valid will in Florida. As defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, issues that may affect an individual’s mental health relate to social and emotional factors.

Psychological ailments such as stress or trauma, for example, may cause temporary problems. While they could affect mental well-being, they may not affect an individual’s mental competency. The Florida Bar notes that mental competency relates to an individual’s ability to understand a legal matter and make important decisions.

Contesting a will based on undue influence

With the necessary mental capacity to distribute property, Florida residents may include their wishes in their estate plans. Testators generally have free reign to leave assets to their chosen beneficiaries. Contesting a will, however, may require showing that a third party influenced an individual’s decisions at the time of its creation.

As reported by the Florida Bar website, the court may review whether an individual lived alone or depended on caregivers. If a beneficiary had daily involvement with the deceased’s financial affairs, for example, the court may consider the possibility of that individual affecting the will’s creation. Frequent changes made to a will may also raise issues of undue influence.

Presenting evidence of undue influence

Isolating a senior individual from family or friends may indicate an attempt to change a will’s contents. The ABA Journal notes that a caregiver heavily involved in family visits or conversations may have motives for inclusion in the will.

A will’s last revision may provide clues showing how a beneficiary or caregiver exercised undue influence over its creation. Notes of conversations or pictures of unexpected visitors may show that an individual influenced the deceased during a will’s revision.