The short answer – almost everyone over the age of 18 is capable of making a Will. The law states that you must be at least 18 years of age and of sound mind to make a valid Will. The age requirement is pretty straightforward. The question of “sound mind” is not always so clear-cut.
To be of sound mind means that you are capable of understanding in a general way 1) the nature and extent of your assets; 2) who your natural beneficiaries are (the natural objects of your bounty); 3) how your property is being distributed; and 4) forming an orderly desire regarding distribution of your property. This is a very low standard for establishing that someone is of sound mind, so almost everyone will meet this definition.
There are two primary considerations in determining if someone is of sound mind. The first is intellectual capacity. There is no IQ requirement or education requirement for creating a Will, nor any requirement to be responsible or logical. Is the individual intellectually capable of knowing his or her assets, identifying his or her relatives or other close individuals and deciding in a basic way how his or her assets should be distributed? The vast majority of adults are able to meet this standard, even if they have some intellectual restrictions.
The second consideration is whether a mental or physical condition is affecting the individual to the extent that he or she is not capable of meeting this “sound mind” standard. Many people are affected by mental or physical conditions that may limit their functioning in some way. However, those conditions do not disqualify individuals from executing valid Wills unless the effect is so profound that it renders them incapable of knowing their assets, identifying their relatives or other close individuals in their lives and deciding in a basic way how their assets should be distributed.
Think about the people in your life. Most likely, there are few, if any, who would not meet the test for being capable of executing a valid Will.
If you live or work in the central Pennsylvania area, including Carlisle, Harrisburg, Hershey and surrounding communities and would like to discuss Wills or any other family law or estate planning or administration issue, please contact me.