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What Is a Capacity? Definition, Uses and Importance.

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Legal capacity is the ability or fitness to fulfill a task. In this case, it’s described as the legal right, capability, to execute an activity. A person is said to have a legal capacity when they can understand the consequences of an action they have taken. 

In essence, legal capacity refers to the soundness of a person’s mind; their thoughts, and a general understanding of decisions they make. It is the competency to create or get into legal agreements with an intelligent mindset. 

Someone who is intelligent or has legal capacity can decide to sell off their property or spend their money while being aware of the consequences that may arise as a result of the actions that they have taken. 

It is important to note that anyone who needs to be forced before they can take certain decisions lacks legal capacity; they can not be allowed to sign contracts or involve themselves in any legal agreement. For example, a child of 0 to 10 can be said to lack legal capacity.

Why is Legal Capacity Important In Probate?

Having legal capacity is important because it enables an individual to be aware of their life choices and what may come out of those choices. 

As a business person, getting into a contract with someone who has legal capacity assures you that they are competent and legally approved to agree to the terms. 

That said, we can conclude by saying that only a mentally sound, age-appropriate, and willful person can be said to have the legal capacity to start probate or enter into a legal agreement. Read up on how you can petition the court to begin the probate process.

Does Mental Capacity Get Litigated?

Capacity is one of the most litigated issues in probate cases. Many times family members that are cut out of a will, argue that they are owed that money and that the testator did not have sufficient mental capacity when making the decision to cut them out of the will.

Can a sibling sell the inherited property (or real estate)? Find out here.

How is Capacity Structured?

Usually, in a legal setting, the attorney in charge of the probate procedure makes the final decision. This is done even if it means that the attorney will invite a medical professional to assess the mental state of the individuals. 

Generally, the state law assumes that all adults, as long as they are 18 years or older, have legal capacity unless they are adjudged as incapacitated. 

As a lawyer, you are prone to work with a lot of older people. This means that you are left to determine the decision-making capacity of each client. That’s because some clients will have an impaired capacity to understand at the end of the day.

Because of that, moat lawyers make it a duty to assess the capacity each time they have to communicate with their clients. This is to confirm that the client has a thorough understanding of the options and choices that they end up making. 

In some cases, the lawyer will find out that the client does not have an understanding of the steps they are about to take. When this happens, extra procedures will be taken to see that the client’s ability to understand situations is improved. 

To get the information from the client, the attorney can choose a home setting for the interview and assessment. The client’s family also be present if they are permitted to.

Note, there’s a particular set of people who are not able and can not be allowed to get into a contract. Below is how you can easily spot them:

  • Mentally unstable people
  • Minors below 18 years
  • Individuals who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Financially incapable people

In a case where someone is intoxicated by voluntary means, the lawyer or the court does not think that it’s a must for them to sign any contract. They will be left with the responsibility of putting themselves back in the right state of mind. 

An individual’s legal capacity defines the relevance of certain legal relationships. Generally, people use the legal capacity to mean that a person has the legal or natural ability to perform some legal acts which may include vindication of commitments and rights to obligations. 

The following are synonyms for capacity:

  • Legal competence
  • Legal standing
  • Dispositive capacity
  • Legal adequacy

Why are minors considered incapacitated to handle contracts?

Minors are people who are under the age of 18. In most states, people who fall under this category are considered invalid when it comes to making contracts. If the go-ahead is to sign a contract, such a contract may become void. 

Nonetheless, there are certain exceptions to this; Contracts that involve lodging, clothing, food, or other necessities are not termed void when minor signs are on them. As long as a minor is still under the age of the majority group, they can decide to void a contract at any time. Once they are up to 18 years, contracts are no longer visible even if the steps have been taken.

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