Wilson v. Lane

The Facts

  • Katherine Lane – Executrix (D)
  • Jewel Jones Greer – Decedent (T)
  • Floyd Wilson -P
  • The will distributed T’s property into 17 equal shares to 17 beneficiaries.
  • 16 of the beneficiaries were blood-relatives to T
  • D was the only non-blood beneficiary and had spent much time caring for T until T’s death in 2000

Procedural History

  • P challenged T’s testamentary capacity
  • Jury found for P
  • TC allowed JNOV for D

The Issue

Did T lack the testamentary capacity to execute a will when ?

The Rule

  • A person is mentally capable to make a will if she has sufficient intellect to enable her to have a decided and rational desire as to the disposition of her property.

The Holding/Disposition

  • No, affirmed

Court’s Reasoning

  • Drafting attorney testified that T was mentally competent when the will was signed and that T had selected the beneficiaries of her will “emphatically”
  • P never presented any evidence showing T was incapable of forming a decided and rational desire as to the disposition of her property, even when evidence is examined in a light most favorable to P’s side
  • P called T eccentric, aged, and peculiar in the last years of her life.
  • But the law does not withhold from the aged, the feeble, the weak-minded, the capricious, the notionate, the right to make a will, provided such a person has a decided and rational desire as to the disposition of their property
  • Although perhaps persuasive to a jury, eccentric habits and absurd beliefs do not establish testamentary incapacity
  • No expert or physician showed T lacked testamentary capacity

Dissents or Concurrences

  • The issue is not for the court to decide is she lacked testamentary capacity; the issue is whether the evidence supported the jury’s finding and whether the JNOV was proper
  • In this case, the evidence can support the jury’s finding and thus JNOV was improper


A court must allow the issue of testamentary capacity to go to a jury when there is a genuine conflict in the evidence regarding the testator’s state of mind.

Must look at the totality of the evidence.

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