Legal speak has some pretty interesting, but necessary, phrases that are applied to many contracts and wills. One of the more well-known phrases in legal speak is “of sound mind and body.” To be honest, being of sound body is not used nearly as much as being of sound mind. You might have heard the term “of sound mind” being used, but you might not know exactly what it means.
Of Sound Mind
The broad definition associated with being of sound mind is someone who has the mental capacity to understand what is going on around them and make important decisions involving themselves and their family. In other words, you have the ability to understand that you are writing a will and you are fully cognizant of all of your relatives and how you want your assets distributed after you pass away.
If a will is challenged because a relative does not believe the deceased was of sound mind when the will was drafted, then that can be extremely difficult to prove. Just because Grandpa Tom liked to wear his shorts backwards does not mean he was not of sound mind. He was a little eccentric, but not of sound mind.
Non Compos Mentis
Non compos mentis is the term used when someone is not of sound mind. Normally, an attorney will require some kind of proof in writing from a physician that a person is non compos mentis before drafting a power of attorney or a will. Once again, this position can be challenged when the will is read, but it is just as hard to prove someone was not non compos mentis after they have passed away as it is to prove they were.
The idea of someone being non compos mentis is usually not brought up until after they have passed away. In most cases, doctors will let family members know when someone is not of sound mind anymore so the family can make the proper arrangement. Many wills are challenged every year on the idea that the will writer was non compos mentis at the time the will was drafted.
Getting Help For Your Family Member
One of the most difficult things for any family to do is having to admit that their loved one is not of sound mind. It becomes even more complicated when the person who is making the assertion that something is wrong is not an immediate family member. In many cases, the immediate family members will do whatever they can to protect their loved one from these types of accusations.
A person who is not of sound mind can be manipulated by others and sign documents that they may not understand. If you suspect that someone in your family is non compos mentis, then you do have actions you can take. Your first step is to contact an experienced estate law lawyer to try and have a power of attorney put in place to protect your loved one.
It can be difficult for any family to have to admit that their loved one is no longer of sound mind. The fact that wills and estates can be changed at any time should underscore the importance of getting a family member who is not of sound mind the legal help they need immediately. An experienced attorney can help you to prevent a family member from being exploited in their most vulnerable time.