One of the conditions which must be satisfied for a will to be valid is that the person making it must be of sound mind. With an ageing population, cases involving disputes over a testator’s mental capacity are becoming more common – it is estimated that up to two million people in the UK suffer from some form of dementia or brain injury.
Case law developments in this area and legislation in the form of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 have led the Law Society and the British Medical Association to develop new guidelines to assist doctors and lawyers to assess mental capacity. It is a useful guide for anyone who has to care for or is responsible for someone whose mental capacity is in doubt.
The guide can be purchased from the Law Society or from a number of online booksellers although, at £39.95, you might prefer to wait until a copy finds its way to your local reference library. For free information see the Department of Health website.
The bar for a successful challenge to a will on the gorund of a lack of mental capacity is set high. Cases in 2013 and 2014 made it clear that recurrent mental illness (schizophrenia) and being 'grief stricken' do not necessarily mean that a testator lacks the mental capacity to make a valid will.