Last year I wrote here about a case out of the 3d DCA that had me puzzled. The 2006 case was a will contest involving allegations of "insane delusion". I couldn’t reconcile the 3d DCA’s apparent retreat from the extremely tough "lucid interval" standard generally applicable to testamentary capacity cases.
What the 3d DCA failed to explicitly state was that lack of testamentary capacity can be established in two ways: (1) general incapacity (governed by the insane-delusion standard) or (2) by establishing some specific and narrower form of insane delusion that is the direct cause of the invalid will. This second testamentary-capacity line of attack is worth remembering.
As if on cue, professor Bradley E.S. Fogel of St. Louis University School of Law just published an article in the Spring 2007 edition of the ABA’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Journal providing an excellent summary of the law governing insane-delusion will contests. The article is entitled THE COMPLETELY INSANE LAW OF PARTIAL INSANITY: THE IMPACT OF MONOMANIA ON TESTAMENTARY CAPACITY. Here’s the editor’s synopsis of his article:
In this Article, the author discusses the doctrine of monomania, which permits a court to invalidate a will based on the testator’s insane delusion if that insane delusion caused the testator to dispose of his property in a way that he otherwise would not have. The author argues that the monomania doctrine is fatally flawed and that the doctrine should be abandoned in favor of using the general test for capacity to make all testamentary capacity decisions.