Last week we blogged about the relationship between age and capacity, citing the classic statement of the test for testamentary capacity found in Banks v. Goodfellow (1870), L.R. 5 Q.B. 549, which includes:
that no insane delusion shall influence his will on disposing of his property, and bring about a disposal of it which would not have been made otherwise.
Since Banks v Goodfellow, the courts have considered the meaning of “insane delusion” in relation to testamentary capacity. In Boughton v Knight (1873), [1861-73] All ER Rep 40, the court held that a “delusion” is something more than a mistaken belief. To reach the status of “delusion” the mistaken belief must be something that no person with sense could believe. In Re Watts Estate, 1933 CarswellNB 9, the Court stated:
It has been laid down that a mistaken belief as to a matter of fact or illogical conclusions therefrom is not necessarily an insane delusion, neither is any belief or prejudice however mistaken which has some basis for it […] So long as there is some evidence of or basis for the belief it is not and never can be an insane delusion.
In Banton v Banton, the court held delusions may not be obvious on their face. In this case, the testator’s belief that his children were only interested in his money was contrary to the evidence. Delusions can include “beliefs whose extreme improbability is apparent only when the surrounding facts are known. These are obviously the more difficult cases.”
To find a disposition void because of delusion, the courts have held it is insufficient simply to show that the delusion is related to the subject matter of the disposition. Instead, the court must be satisfied that the delusions affected the dispositions in the will. If insane delusions on the subject matter of the will are proved to have existed, the propounder has the burden of showing the delusions did not affect the testator’s dispositions.
Thank you for reading.
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