Definition: Capacity

Capacity, or testamentary capacity, is the soundness of mind required of a testator. Capacity is one of the minimum requirements to execute a valid will in the State of Washington.

Courts in Washington use the following standard to determine whether or not a testator has capacity:

[A] person is possessed of testamentary capacity if at the time he assumes to execute a will he has sufficient mind and memory to understand the transaction in which he is then engaged, to comprehend generally the nature and extent of the property which constitutes his estate and of which he is contemplating disposition to recollect the objects of his bounty.1

If a lack of capacity is cited as the basis for a contest to your will, a court will look at evidence of the testator’s mental or physical condition, the appearance of the testator’s will, and the testator’s actions to determine whether or not the testator had sufficient capacity at the time he or she executed the will.

These factors, and the evidence that is examined in evaluating them, are highly subjective to the individual whose capacity is called into question. Therefore, we refrain from providing examples in this definition.

  1. In re Bottger’s Estate, 14 Wn.2d 676, 685, 129 P.2d 518 (1942).