Psychological state plays role in probate court decision

One’s state of mind is important when making legally binding decisions. Not only is this important for the person making the decisions, but also it is essential in determining if a person’s will is to be considered legally binding in probate court in Maryland or any other state. This turned out to be essential in an out-of-state probate case which began in 2012.

Apparently, the decedent had dictated his will to his attorney just two days prior to his death. In the first court hearing surrounding the case, the judge accepted the will and ruled that it was legally binding. The will gave all of the decedent’s assets to a local veterinarian who was a close friend of the decedent. However, the decedent’s brother and stepson decided to challenge the initial ruling by the probate judge.

The contestants to the will brought forth additional evidence which cast serious doubt on the psychological state of the decedent, as he reportedly dictated his will just two days before dying. A well-respected psychologist had examined the decedent at around the same time. The psychologist’s testimony became important in the new trial. Apparently, the decedent was incoherent just prior to his death, according to the psychologist’s testimony.

In the new trial concerning the probate case, the judge ruled that the will was invalid because the decedent was not competent when dictating the will. The assets of the estate were then put into a trust for the decedent’s stepson, who is currently serving time in prison. This case illustrates just how important it is for a will or any other estate planning document to be properly drafted. Maryland residents should ensure that their estate planning documents are legally enforceable as a crucial part of the estate planning process.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, “No determination on death of Sacramento psychologist who testified in probate case”, Andy Furillo, Dec. 18, 2014


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