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WILLS/TRUST 28: The test for assessing an individual’s competency as to a conveyance of property.

 

JV died in June 2013. A bench trial took place during which W and other heirs argued that JV was mentally incompetent, in part, due to Parkinson’s disease, at the time of signing the 2012 will and POA and the 2013 deed. March 14, 2013, JV signed a ladybird deed granting his home, upon his death, to his cousin. They also argued that LVJ abused the POA by diverting funds and making various errors in settling JV’s estate.

Competency and Related Issues

W argued that JV was incompetent when signing the 2012 will and POA and the 2013 deed. We disagree. MCL 700.2501(2) provides: An individual has sufficient mental capacity to make a will if all of the following requirements are met:

(a) The individual has the ability to understand that he or she is providing for the disposition of his or her property after death.

(b) The individual has the ability to know the nature and extent of his or her property.

(c) The individual knows the natural objects of his or her bounty.

(d) The individual has the ability to understand in a reasonable manner the general nature and effect of his or her act in signing the will.

The test for assessing an individual’s competency as to a conveyance of property is whether at the time he executed the deeds in question he had sufficient mental capacity to understand the business in which he was engaged, to know and understand the extent and value of his property, and how he wanted to dispose of it, and to keep these facts in his mind long enough to plan and effect the conveyances in question without prompting and interference from others.

Testimony

The treating physician testified that advanced Parkinson’s disease was progressive and often causes cognitive impairment, but that impairment can be intermittent throughout the day. In addition, the attorney who assisted with the signings testified that before the signings he talked with JV to see if he understood what was happening and stated that he had no information and observed no signs indicating that JV was not competent.

Probate Court

The probate court greatly emphasized the intermittent nature of JV’s confusion and concluded that the attorney was in the best position to assess JV’s legal competence at the time of signing. The court upheld the 2012 will and power of attorney (POA) and 2013 deed executed by the deceased.

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