While preparing his living will, a Grammy award-winning Tennessee singer included language stating he is “specifically excluding” three of his adult children. After he passed away, the three siblings from one of his previous marriages contested his will in probate court, as reported by the Tennessean. The will named the singer’s fourth and final wife as the beneficiary of his estate along with five of his other adult children.

The three siblings left without an inheritance contested the will’s validity by raising the issue of the singer’s mental capacity. The will, executed in 2006, however, came before 2010, when the singer went public with his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The dispute eventually resulted in the three siblings withdrawing their claim, but the legal procedure tied up the estate from passing all the property on to its intended beneficiaries.

Determining testamentary capacity

According to an article published by NASDAQ, an individual who understands what they are signing has the testamentary capacity to execute a will. If the testator knows the extent of their property and assets, and also understands its value, then he or she is capable of deciding how to distribute it to any beneficiaries. Generally, the testator must have the ability to foresee that contesting a will is a possibility if someone does not agree with its terms.

It is not difficult to understand how an offspring intentionally left out of a parent’s will might wish to file a dispute through the probate court. When explicit language excludes an individual as a beneficiary, the court looks to the testator’s intent and state of mind during the time of the will’s execution.