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Presumption of Capacity – Probate Code Sections 810-812

Presumption of Capacity: Understanding Probate Code Sections 810-812

The Presumption of Capacity

The Probate Code has several statutes that discuss the legal threshold for a person’s capacity to make decisions.

Probate Code section 810 provides that there is a rebuttable presumption that all persons have the capacity necessary to make decisions and to be accountable for them. Additionally, section 810 provides that “[a] person who has a mental or physical disorder may still be capable of contracting, conveying, marrying, making medical decisions, executing wills or trusts, and performing other actions.” Further, the section provides that courts should base any findings related to a person’s capacity not on a diagnosis of a mental disorder, but on evidence of a deficit in one or more of the person’s mental functions. These mental functions are discussed in Probate Code Section 811.

Probate Code Section 811 provides that to determine a person is unsound mind or lacks the capacity to make a decision or do a certain act, including the ability to enter a contract, or execute a will or trust, there must be evidence of a deficit one or more specific mental functions (for example alertness and attention, information processing, thought processes, the ability to modulate mood and affect) and there must be evidence of a correlation between that deficit and the decision or act in question.

Probate Code section 812 states that a person lacks capacity to make a decision unless he or she has “the ability to communicate verbally, or by another other means, the decision, and to understand and appreciate, to the extent relevant, all of the following:

(a) The rights duties and responsibilities created by or affected by the decision.
(b) The probable consequences for the decisionmaker, and where appropriate, the persons affected by the decision.
(c) The significant risks, benefits and reasonable alternatives involved in the decision.”

Key Points of Probate Code Sections 810-812

1. Legal Presumption:

Probate Code Section 810 sets forth a legal presumption that an adult has the capacity to make their own decisions, including those related to their estate.

2. Decisional Abilities:

Probate Code Section 810 clarifies that a person will not be determined to be of unsound mind merely because they are diagnosed with a mental or physical disorder. Instead there must be evidence that a deficit in one more of the person’s functions renders that person unable to perform a specific act. These deficits which are listed in Probate Code Section 811 must specifically relate to or affect the act in question in order to affect a capacity determination.

3. Burden of Proof:

Probate Code Section 810 clarifies that a person will not be determined to be of unsound mind merely because they are diagnosed with a mental or physical disorder. Instead there must be evidence that a deficit in one more of the person’s functions renders that person unable to perform a specific act. These deficits which are listed in Probate Code Section 811 must specifically relate to or affect the act in question in order to affect a capacity determination.

Navigating Capacity Issues in Estate Planning

Understanding Probate Code Sections 810-812 is crucial when dealing with capacity-related matters in estate planning. Estate Law California APC can assist you in:

  • Defending Capacity:
    Ensuring that individuals are recognized as having the legal capacity to make their own decisions.
  • Challenging Capacity:
    Representing clients when there are disputes about an individual’s capacity, requiring clear and convincing evidence.
  • Strategic Advocacy:
    Utilizing the legal framework established by Probate Code Sections 810-812 to protect the rights and interests of Estate Law California APC’s clients.

How Estate Law California APC Can Assist

Estate Law California APC is dedicated to providing comprehensive legal assistance in matters related to capacity in estate planning. Whether you are navigating the creation of a will, trust, or addressing challenges to capacity, Estate Law California APC is here to guide you.

If you have questions or concerns about capacity issues in estate planning, contact Estate Law California APC for a free telephone consultation.

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