Formalities, Mental Incapacity and Undue Influence

Is the Will Valid?

Family members of a will-maker and other potential beneficiaries may be concerned with whether a will is legally valid and the effect of an invalid will on their rights to inheritance. A will may have no legal effect if certain formalities are not complied with, such as the presence of two witnesses at the signing. However, recent changes in estates law in British Columbia allow a court to validate a will even if it does not comply with formal requirements. As a result, beneficiaries will be concerned with the effects of informal documents left by the deceased, which appear to deal with inheritance of the estate such as letters, notes, emails and improperly executed wills. Other factors can also invalidate a will, such as where a will-maker is pressured into giving certain gifts in a will or where the will-maker suffers from dementia or Alzheimer's. Potential beneficiaries will be concerned with whether or not a will is valid and how their rights of inheritance are affected by an invalid will.

Mental Incapacity

A will may be invalid where the will-maker is found to be mentally incapable of making a will. Dementia, Alzheimer's and delusions may cause a will to be of no effect, but this will depend on the specific circumstances of each case. Where mental illness exists, it is possible that the will-maker still possessed the mental capacity to make a will. Beneficiaries should be aware of the potential for court actions to invalidate the will and the effects of an invalid will on their entitlement to inheritance.

Undue Influence

A will-maker may fall victim to the influence of people who pressure or coerce the will-maker into signing a will that does not reflect his or her actual wishes. This concept is known as undue influence and can have the effect of invalidating a will. Where suspicious circumstances exist around the signing of a will, beneficiaries may seek to protect the true wishes of the deceased and their potential inheritance.

The estates lawyers at Peterson Stark Scott are an exceptional resource for concerned friends and family members who think a will may be legally invalid because it does not reflect the true wishes of the deceased, due to mental incapacity or simply because it does not comply with legal formalities. If you have concerns with the validity of a will, contact our office online, or call 800-675-2419 or 604-634-2308.