Brief Fact Summary. Testator executed a will leaving his property to a good friend’s widow. The will was contested on the grounds that testator did not know the natural objects of his bounty as he believed the two children of his ex-wife were not his.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A mistaken belief is not a grounds for finding lack of testamentary capacity as long as there is some rational basis for that belief, however slight.
The well-settled rule in this class of cases is that if there be more than a mere scintilla of evidence tending to show incompetency to make a will and of such a character that different inferences may fairly be drawn therefrom, the case must be decided as one of fact and if the trial be before a jury it must be left with the jury.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether there is any rational basis, however slight, for the testator’s belief that he was not the father of the children of his divorced wife, thus showing he did not lack testamentary capacity?
Held. Yes. Reversed. Based on the facts there is a rational basis for the testator’s belief and therefore he had a the capacity to execute his will.
Dissent. There is ample evidence to support a verdict of the jury that the testator was not of sound mind at the time of the execution of his will. The testator’s ex-wife testified that she did not tell the testator that the children were not his and therefore the jury could conclude that the testator suffered from an insane delusion in so far as the children were concerned.
Discussion. The Court notes that a mistaken belief on the part of a testator does not necessarily establish that the testator lacked capacity. People often makes illogical or incorrect conclusions based on prejudices or peculiar constructions of their mind but a will does not required that the testator be able to reason free from this. The Court finds that the testator may have mistakenly believed the children were not his but that this is not an insane delusion showing a lack of testamentary capacity.