The distribution of a deceased individual’s assets can be a complex and emotional process. Disputes can arise over the interpretation of a will or trust, as well as allegations of undue influence or fraud. The case of Matter of Estate of Richichi is a prime example of such a dispute, where family members of the deceased individual contested the distribution of her assets on the basis of lack of testamentary capacity.
Lack of testamentary capacity refers to a person’s inability to make or alter a will due to mental incapacity. In New York, a person must possess testamentary capacity in order to create or modify a will. To have testamentary capacity in New York, a person must understand the nature and extent of their property, understand the persons who are the natural objects of their bounty, and have a reasonable understanding of the effects of their will. This requires that the person have the ability to comprehend and appreciate the consequences of their decisions and understand the interrelationships among those affected by the will.
A lack of testamentary capacity can be due to a variety of reasons, including but not limited to, mental illness, dementia, and intoxication. If it can be shown that the testator lacked testamentary capacity at the time the will was created, the will may be deemed invalid.