THE STANDARD FOR CAPACITY TO EXECUTE A WILL OR TRUST IS THE SAME
In the case Andersen v. Hunt, 196 Cal.App.4th 722 (2011), Wayne Andersen had established a family trust with his first wife that named their children as sole remainder beneficiaries. Wayne’s wife passed away and he developed a relationship with Pauline Hunt. Wayne then had a serious stroke. Following the stroke, Wayne amended his trust four times, changed the beneficiary designations on his life insurance, and opened joint bank accounts with Pauline resulting in Pauline with majority of Wayne’s estate upon his death. Wayne’s children then sought to invalidate the documents that he signed after his stroke on the grounds that he lacked the requisite mental capacity when he executed them. Through the testimony of medical experts, the court held that Wayne was not likely competent to manage his financial affairs after his stroke and thus lacked the capacity to open joint accounts or change the beneficiary of his life insurance. These were not considered simple testamentary changes and were judged by the contractual capacity standard as defined in Probate Code Section 812 and Wayne did not meet that standard.