Sydney University Press Law Books
CHAPTER 4 - Capacity to make a will4. 1. Introduction
As our society becomes richer and more and more people have real and personal property to leave when they die, and because of the likelihood of a great increase in the prevalence of dementia,  it is likely that there will be many more people with cognitive disabilities making or changing their wills near the end of their lives. There will be challenges to some of these wills, some not anticipated, making it necessary to collect the evidence of the will-makers will-making capacity after their deaths.
In this chapter we set out the law relating to will-making capacity, which is what we call testamentary capacity, as well as the law that has been developed to allow challenges to wills made when the will-maker has lacked capacity, where the will was made in suspicious circumstances or where the will was made as a result of undue influence. The chapter also sets out what is expected of solicitors when acting for people whose will-making capacity is in doubt. It also deals with the conditions which may lead to incapacity and with the attitude of the courts to the evidence about a person’s will-making capacity, who gives that evidence and when and how they formed their opinions about the evidence.
Testamentary capacity [will-making capacity]is one of those mental functions that cross the legal and medical domains. It is both a legal concept and a specific focus of medical assessment. This blurring can cause considerable difficulties in the Courts. Challenges are made on a legal basis yet evidence can be dependent upon expert psychiatric or medical assessment. Furthermore, on an international level, testamentary capacity is one of the few capacities that is almost entirely dependent on case law without much statutory direction.
This quotation from an important article by two Canadian psychiatrists and a lawyer reflects part what we are attempting to do in this chapter. We describe the law relating to will-making capacity, derived mostly from the decided cases spanning the 19th to 21st centuries, and the increasing understanding of that matter from the medical perspective. We also set out how lawyers should act so as to ensure that their clients make valid wills thereby protecting their clients’ rights to distribute their assets according to their own wishes. We deal with how health professionals, acting as experts, can contribute appropriately and effectively to that process.
We have already noted that we call testamentary capacity “will-making capacity” in this chapter. We also call a testator or testatrix a “will-maker”; however we do not change those terms when they appear in any quotation from another source.
In 1870, Cockburn CJ gave the judgment of the Court of Queens Bench comprising himself, Blackburn, Mellor and Hannen JJ in Banks v Goodfellow. In it he laid down the test for will-making capacity which was adopted in Australia and other common law countries and has been reaffirmed many times in the 20th and 21st centuries. Cockburn CJ said in relation to the capacity or power to make a will that:
It is essential to the exercise of such a power that a testator shall understand the nature of the act and its effects; shall understand the extent of the property of which he is disposing; shall be able to comprehend and appreciate the claims to which he ought to give effect; and, with a view to the latter object, that no disorder of mind shall poison his affections, pervert his sense of right, or prevent the exercise of his natural faculties - that no insane delusions shall influence his will in disposing his property and bring about a disposal of it which, if the mind had been sound, would not have been made.
While Banks v Goodfellow continues to be a leading case, as will been seen more than once in this chapter, the law moves on. Recent court decisions in Australia have acknowledged the differences between the 19th century context and today. One example is Kerr v Badran which highlighted the differences between 1870 and today on the issue of assets knowledge. In that case Windeyer J said:
In dealing with the Banks v Goodfellow test it is, I think, necessary to bear in mind the differences between life in 1870 and life in 1995. The average expectation of life for reasonably affluent people in England in 1870 was probably less than 60 years and for others less well off under 50 years: the average life expectancy of male in Australia in 1995 was 75 years. Younger people can be expected to have a more accurate understanding of the value of money than older people. Younger people are less likely to suffer memory loss. When there were fewer deaths at advanced age, problems which arise with age, such as dementia, were less common. In England in 1870, if you had property it was likely to be lands or bonds or shares in railway companies or government backed enterprises. Investment in ordinary companies was far less common than now. Older people living today may well be aware that they own substantial shareholdings or substantial real estate, but yet may not have an accurate understanding of the value of those assets, nor for that matter the addresses of the real estate or the particular shareholdings which they have. Many people have handed over management of share portfolios and even real estate investments to advisors. They might be quite comfortable with what they have; they may understand that they have assets which can provide an acceptable income for them, but at the same time they may not have a proper understanding of the value of the assets which provide the income. They may however be well able to distribute those assets by will. I think that this needs to be kept in mind in 2004 when the requirement of knowing “the extent” of the estate is considered. This does not necessarily mean knowledge of each particular asset or knowledge of the value of that asset, or even a particular class of assets particularly when shares in private companies are part of the estate.
In Banks v Goodfellow the jury had held, and the judges had agreed, that the will-maker, John Banks, was suffering from insane delusions. Nevertheless, his capacity and right to make a will was upheld. Cockburn CJ counseled:
No doubt, where the fact that the testator has been subject to any insane delusion is established, a will should be regarded with great distrust, and every presumption should in the first instance be made against it. Where insane delusion has once been shown to have existed, it may be difficult to say whether the mental disorder may not possibly have extended beyond the particular form or instance in which it manifested itself. It may be equally difficult to say how far the delusion may not have influenced the testator in the particular disposal of his property. And the presumption against a will made under such circumstances becomes additionally strong where the will is … one in which natural affection and claims of near relationship have been disregarded.
Cockburn CJ went on to note that neither of the delusions that Banks suffered from namely that he was pursued by spirits and that a man long since dead came to molest him had “affected the general faculties of his mind, and could have no affect upon the will” and held that there was “no sufficient reason why the testator should be held to have lost his right to make a will, or why a will made under these circumstances should not be upheld”.
Consequently, Banks v Goodfellow not only lays down the test for will-making capacity, but also makes it clear that a partial unsoundness of mind, not affecting the person’s general faculties and not operating on the person’s mind in regard to a particular testamentary disposition, will not be sufficient to deprive the person of the power to dispose of their property in a will. For an example of a case of a “prolific” will-maker who was held to lack will-making capacity in relation to a particular will because of an unfounded and irrational belief that was persistently held despite overwhelming proof of its falsity, see Bull v Fulton. However, as Gleeson CJ has pointed out, “the law treats as critical the distinction between mere antipathy, albeit unreasonable, towards one who has a claim, and a judgment which is affected by disorder of the mind”.
Banks v Goodfellow remains the leading case on capacity to make a will after 140 years not only because of the common law’s reliance on precedent to ensure consistency in the application of the law but also because of the lawyer’s love of flowery phrases which attract attention to the way the test is stated in that case. Nevertheless, the common law moves on in the light of new knowledge and understanding of medical and psychological matters. In a breakthrough case arising from a person developing a psychiatric condition as a result of shock caused by an accident at work, Windeyer J noted “Law marching with medicine but in the rear and limping a little….” Earlier, in a leading case on will-making capacity, Timbury v Coffee, a case of a will-maker who drank himself into a state of physical exhaustion and mental disturbance, Dixon J noted that:
We are not bound to go on applying views held over a century ago about mental disturbance and insanity and to disregard modern knowledge and understanding of such conditions.
It has been suggested recently that the law is limping too far behind medicine in relation to the assessment of will-making capacity.
Some catching up was done in the English Court of Chancery in 2010 when Briggs J stated the following:
Without in any way detracting from the continuing authority of Banks v. Goodfellow, it must be recognised that psychiatric medicine has come a long way since 1870 in recognising an ever widening range of circumstances now regarded as sufficient at least to give rise to a risk of mental disorder, sufficient to deprive a patient of the power of rational decision making, quite distinctly from old age and infirmity. The mental shock of witnessing an injury to a loved one is an example recognised by the law, and the affective disorder which may be caused by bereavement is an example recognised by psychiatrists…. 
One of the expert witness psychiatrists in the case described the symptomatic effect of bereavement as capable of being almost identical to that associated with severe depression. Having noted this, Briggs J continued:
Accordingly, although neither I nor counsel has found any reported case dealing with the effect of bereavement on testamentary capacity, the Banks v. Goodfellow test must be applied so as to accommodate this, among other factors capable of impairing testamentary capacity, in a way in which, perhaps, the court would have found difficult to recognise in the 19th century.
Will-makers must be of sound mind, memory and understanding to make a valid will. What is required of them is that they:
1. understand the nature and effect of a will;
2. know the nature and extent of their property;
3. comprehend and appreciate the claims to which they ought to give effect; and
4. are not affected delusions that influence the disposal of their assets at the time they are making their will.
Clearly, these basic elements, derived from Banks v Goodfellow, have not changed. However, the way in which we apply these elements to the determination of will-making capacity has changed. Our understanding of conditions such as dementia - which predominates as the leading cause of mental disturbance interfering with will-making capacity today – has evolved. In particular, our understanding of the ways in which such conditions impact on a person’s ability to know, comprehend and appreciate has become more sophisticated and complex, as will be discussed in this chapter.
Sometimes the question arises, did the will-maker lose their will-making capacity between the time they gave instructions for the will and when they signed the will? That issue has been settled since 1883 by the courts in England and Australia taking the following approach. If the will-maker had will-making capacity when they gave instructions for the will and believed that the will, as drafted, reflected those instructions, and that was true as a matter of fact and they executed the will in that belief, the will was valid and would be admitted to probate.
In 2010, a unanimous England and Wales Court of Appeal confirmed that approach. In that case, Moore-Bick LJ pointed out that unless there was reason to question it, proof of will-making capacity and the execution of the will were sufficient to establish knowledge and approval of its contents. Furthermore, it could normally be accepted that a person of sound mind was capable of disposing of their property and intended to do so in the manner set out in the will. Consequently, in such cases it was irrelevant to enquire whether the will-maker lacked capacity at the time when they gave the instructions, whether those instructions continued to reflect their intentions or whether they realised that the will gave effect to those instructions. It is enough that the will-maker was capable of making the decision at the time they executed the will document.
However, he went on to state that where a will-maker loses some of their faculties between giving instructions and executing the will, the position is different. He continued:
One must then ask (i) whether at the time [the will-maker] gave the instructions he had the ability to understand and give proper consideration to the various matters which are called for, that is, whether he had [will-making] capacity, (ii) whether the document gives effect to his instructions, (iii) whether those instructions continued to reflect his intentions and (iv) whether at the time he executed the will he knew what he was doing and thus had sufficient mental capacity to carry out the juristic act which that involves. If all those questions can be answered in the affirmative, one can be satisfied that the will accurately reflects the deceased's intentions formed at a time when he was capable of making fully informed decisions.
In the opinion of Moore-Bick LJ, that was what Parker v Felgate decided.
In 1841 in the first edition of Jarman on Wills, Mr Jarman wrote, and it was repeated in all subsequent editions:
Few of the duties which devolve upon a solicitor, more imperatively call for the exercise of a sound, discriminating, and well-informed judgment, than that of taking instructions for wills.
He completed his Suggestions to persons taking instructions for Wills by referring the “admonishing of professional gentlemen generally” of Sir John Nicoll in the Prerogative Court in 1822 that:
[W]here instructions for a will are given by a party not being the proposed testator – a fortiori where by an interested party – it is their bounden duty to satisfy themselves thoroughly, either in person or by the instrumentality of some confidential agent, as to the proposed testator’s volition and capacity – or in other words, that the instrument expresses the real testamentary intentions of a capable testator – prior to its being executed ….
In a 1962 case, In the estate of Tucker, Deceased, Mayo J of the Supreme Court of South Australia warned against taking instructions to make a will by post. In that case Mr Tucker asked a trustee company to draw up a new will for him as he intended to marry a certain person. The will was drafted and returned to him for execution after his marriage. Mr Tucker executed the will but did not marry. Inquiries made after his death showed that at the time he executed the will he was suffering from delusions. He believed that someone was trying to poison him and he was under the delusion that the beneficiary of that will had actually become his wife. The trustee company did not seek probate of that will, but obtained probate of an earlier will. Mayo J noted the likelihood of this problem being avoided if a local agent of the trustee company had been engaged to obtain instructions.
In 1994 in New South Wales, Santow J set out some observations in the hope of reducing the number of cases coming to the Supreme Court based on the lack of will-making capacity of the will-maker. First, he confirmed that: “The essence of a solicitor’s fiduciary obligation to a client is the unfettered service of that client’s interests”. He then noted the real possibility of a conflict of interest for a solicitor who receives instructions from an established client to prepare a will on behalf of another person, particularly when the established client is to be a principal or major beneficiary under the will. He cautioned against acting for more than one of the parties in these circumstances.
Santow J went on to state that duty of a solicitor when taking instructions from “an obviously enfeebled testator, where testamentary capacity is potentially in doubt” is to take particular care “to gain reasonable assurance as to the testamentary capacity of the testator”. He noted that “any suggestion that someone, potentially interested has instigated the will, whether or not a client of the will draftsperson, should particularly place the solicitor concerned on the alert”. Caution in such a situation is well advised. In Chapter 2. 2 and 2. 3. 1. we have discussed how the procurement of a will – or indeed any legal document - in such circumstances may be an indicator of influence, particularly if the will-maker is cognitively impaired.
Although Sir John Nicoll, Jarman and Mayo J refer to the possibility of using agents, Santow J suggested that the solicitor who is to draft the will should attend the will-maker personally. The solicitor should question the will-maker fully to determine their capacity with the questions directed to ascertain whether the will-maker understands that they are making a will, what the effect of a will is, the extent of the property they are disposing of and the claims to which they ought to give effect – in other words the Banks v Goodfellow test.
Santow J also suggested that the solicitor should arrange for one or two other people to be present who have been chosen for “their calibre as witnesses” as to the will-maker’s capacity should that issue be raised later. No one else should be present except with the consent of the will-maker. Where possible, one of these witnesses should be a doctor, one who has been treating and is familiar with the will-maker.
Santow J suggested that this doctor too should question the will-maker in detail, thoroughly examine the will-maker’s condition, and advise the solicitor as to the capacity and understanding of the will-maker.
There is a developing expectation that if doctors are asked to act as witnesses to the signing of significant documents such as wills, they will go beyond just observing the person signing the document and assure themselves that the person understands the nature of the document they are signing and its consequences. Although the Medical Board of Victoria did not find that a doctor engaged in unprofessional conduct when he acted as a witness without conducting adequate inquiries to ascertain whether a 91 year old man with dementia had capacity to execute a statutory declaration, they were very critical of him and stated the following:
It reflects ill on the practitioner and on the profession of medicine if a doctor is privy to, and a facilitator of, persons signing documents, to their potential disadvantage, when they are unable to do so with any real understanding of what they are doing. This is especially so if the person signing documentation is a medical practitioner’s current patient. In the opinion of all members of this Panel, it is the responsibility of medical practitioners in the current environment to take modest steps to assure themselves that they and their profession are not being manipulated or abused in the context of the witnessing of important documentation.
Santow J advised that the solicitor should take a detailed written record of what took place. The doctor should record the results of the medical examination and the others present should take notes.
Santow J went on to state in a sentence intentionally containing a double negative:
If after careful consideration of all the circumstances the solicitor is not satisfied that the testator does not have testamentary capacity he should proceed and prepare the will.
However Santow J subsequently qualified that opinion with the following statement:
If those questions and the answers to them, leave the solicitor in real doubt as to what should be done, other steps may be desirable. This may include obtaining a more thorough medical appraisal or, if the testator declines, considering whether the will can be properly drawn, should assurance on testamentary capacity fail to satisfy the test just quoted.
He also recommended that the “good general practice” that the solicitor who took the instructions to draw the will should be present when the will-maker executes the will should be followed in these circumstances, that the witnesses attesting the will should be chosen from those present when the instructions were taken and that detailed notes of the events that occurred and the discussions that took place at that time should be made. In 1977 Templeman J (later Lord Templeman of the House of Lords) in the Chancery Division noted that the making of a will of an old and infirm will-maker “ought to be witnessed and approved by a medical practitioner who satisfies himself as to the capacity and understanding of the testator and makes a record of his examination and findings”.
In the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench in 1985, Kroft J took a strong and clear position on the role of solicitors in relation to will-making by weak and ill people at the end of their lives. He “garnered” “basic rules” from Banks v Goodfellow and subsequent Canadian cases noting the following in particular:
The duty of a solicitor taking instructions for a will is always a heavy one. When the client is weak and ill, and particularly when the solicitor knows that he is revoking an existing will, the responsibility will be particularly onerous.
A solicitor cannot discharge his duty by asking perfunctory questions, getting apparently rational answers, and then simply recording in legal form the words expressed by the client. He must first satisfy himself that true testamentary capacity exists, that the instructions are freely given, and that the effect of the will is understood.
Santow J also suggested that that it may be appropriate for the Law Society of New South Wales to give guidance to solicitors as to what was professional conduct in these circumstances. In 2009, the Society published, “A Practical Guide to Solicitors: When a client’s capacity is in doubt”. It noted that it was not the responsibility of a solicitor to be an expert in capacity assessment of their client. However, they could be involved in carrying out a “legal” assessment of their client’s capacity and suggested that this involves:
1. making an initial, preliminary assessment of capacity involving looking out for warning signs and using basic questioning and assessment of the client,
2. if doubts arose, seeking a clinical consultation or formal evaluation of the client’s capacity by a clinician with expertise in cognitive capacity assessment,
3. making a final, legal judgment about capacity for the particular decision or transaction.
In the 2009 case Nicholson v Knaggs, Vickery J of the Supreme Court of Victoria recommended a “considered and appropriately structured interview with the testatrix” and emphasized:
in order to establish knowledge and approval of a will by a testator, more is required than merely establishing that the testator executed it in the presence of a witness after it had been read to or by him 
Vickery J also referred to the 1955 High Court decision, Boreham v Prince Henry Hospital in which the Court noted the well accepted proposition that a will made in “advanced age” is “always carefully scrutinised by the court” and then continued:
The proper approach of the Court to the question whether a testator has testamentary capacity is clear. Although proof that a will was properly executed is prima facie evidence of testamentary capacity, where the evidence as a whole is sufficient to throw a doubt upon the testator's competency, the Court must decide against the validity of the will unless it is satisfied affirmatively that he was of sound mind, memory and understanding when he executed it or, if instructions for the will preceded its execution, when the instructions were given.
Vickery J then pointed out that while the approach in such cases was to scrutinise the evidence more closely than is usual in the course of reaching a decision on the balance of probabilities, the High Court was not imposing a higher standard of proof. The standard remains that of affirmative satisfaction on the balance of probabilities. The High Court was indicating that what was required was that the evidence as a whole was considered but with a degree of caution to be applied when considering each of the factual issues that was under scrutiny. For example, was the will-maker’s soundness of mind an issue and what did the evidence show? The same approach was to be applied to the will-maker’s memory or to their understanding of what they were doing when they gave instructions for or executed the will, if those matters arose as issues, then the standard of proof would be applied to that evidence
While the presumption of capacity remains in place when elderly people are making or changing wills, particularly if they are frail or unwell or showing signs of confusion or dementia, we suggest that the courts will now expect solicitors to obtain expert advice on the question of the person’s capacity to make or change a will. We also suggest that solicitors will be expected to place more reliance on that advice than on their own assessment of their client’s will-making capacity. Consequently, we suggest that it may no longer be appropriate to rely on Santow J’s advice that; “if after careful consideration of all the circumstances the solicitor is not satisfied that the testator does not have testamentary capacity he should proceed and prepare the will” unless they have intimate and both recent and long-term knowledge of their client and their capacity. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that it remains up to solicitors to make the ultimate judgment themselves about their client’s will-making capacity. We also note that the judges appear to prefer contemporaneous evidence of capacity to retrospective diagnoses of specialists, particularly if the solicitors have adopted practices recommended in the guide referred to above.
Our confidence in our suggestion was enhanced in 2010 by the English Court of Chancery by the case of Key & Anor v Key & Ors in which Briggs J noted that a solicitor accepted instructions for the preparation of a will from an 89 year old will-maker whose wife of 65 years' standing had been dead for only a week. The solicitor did so without taking any proper steps to satisfy himself of the will-maker’s will-making capacity, and “without even making an attendance note of his meeting with [the will-maker and one of his daughters who became a major beneficiary as a result of the new will], at which the instructions were taken”. Briggs J described this as a failure to comply with the “Golden Rule” which he described as follows:
The substance of the Golden Rule is that when a solicitor is instructed to prepare a will for an aged testator, or for one who has been seriously ill, he should arrange for a medical practitioner first to satisfy himself as to the capacity and understanding of the testator, and to make a contemporaneous record of his examination and findings.
Briggs J went on to point out that the “Golden Rule” was not a rule of law affecting the validity of a will, but a recommendation for good practice. He said:
Compliance with the Golden Rule does not, of course, operate as a touchstone of the validity of a will, nor does non-compliance demonstrate its invalidity. Its purpose, as has repeatedly been emphasised, is to assist in the avoidance of disputes, or at least in the minimisation of their scope. As the expert evidence in the present case confirms, persons with failing or impaired mental faculties may, for perfectly understandable reasons, seek to conceal what they regard as their embarrassing shortcomings from persons with whom they deal, so that a friend or professional person such as a solicitor may fail to detect defects in mental capacity which would be or become apparent to a trained and experienced medical examiner, to whom a proper description of the legal test for testamentary capacity had first been provided.
While we doubt that Santow J’s advice to solicitors reflects the current position of the court in relation to the assessment of will-making capacity, it does reflect a policy that appears to be implied in the common law namely that a person’s right to make a will is to be upheld wherever it is legitimate to do so. Consequently, a person who is the subject of a financial management order made by the Guardianship Tribunal of New South Wales will still be able to make a will, provided it can be proved that they had will-making capacity at the time they made the will, even though they may not enter into contracts or dispose of their property during the time they are subject to a financial management order. Similarly, a person who is the subject of a guardianship order made by the Guardianship Tribunal of New South Wales may still be able to make a will as the findings of the Tribunal have no effect on the person’s capacity to make a will. Nevertheless, the findings of the Tribunal may be admitted in evidence before the Supreme Court to be taken into account by it “to the extent of whatever rational persuasive power they may have”.
A similar approach was taken in Victoria in relation to findings and decisions of the Guardianship and Administration Board there (now the Guardianship List of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal). Following the New South Wales approach, a Full Court of the Supreme Court of Western Australia has been held that a person the subject of an administration order may still be able to make a will, but that for such a will to be given effect to it would be necessary to prove that the person had will-making capacity at the time they made their will. We suggest that this approach is consistent with the concept of task-specific capacity that is that a person’s capacity to make a decision in one area or task (for example will-making) is distinct and separate, and therefore cannot be extrapolated, from their capacity to perform another task (for example making decisions about lifestyle or finances).
Subject to any legislative provisions limiting or precluding those who are the subject of administration orders making or varying wills or imposing restrictions on the circumstances in which a person the subject of a guardianship or administration order may make or vary a will, there is no reason why the position taken by the Supreme Courts of New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia would not be followed in the other Australian jurisdictions. The South Australian Guardianship Board is authorised to direct that a person the subject of a guardianship or administration order may make a will-making disposition only after compliance with such precautions as the Board thinks fit to direct.  In Western Australia however, a provision which may have been intended to give a similar power to the State Administrative Tribunal has been held not to apply to wills or other forms of testamentary instrument, for example codicils.
As Powell J shows in Perpetual Trustee Co v Fairlie-Cunninghame, the courts and commentators in England and Australia have long since held that the opinion that those with mental illnesses may be able to make wills during lucid periods. In any event their wills have no effect during their lifetime and the validity of such wills may be tested before probate of them is allowed. The issue of lucid intervals is complex and is one area where the law lags behind medicine, as discussed below.
In a subsequent case, Powell JA referred to many forms of mental disorder that may be relevant to the question of whether or not a will-maker had will-making capacity at the time they made their will. He referred to multi-infarct dementia, Alzheimer’s type dementia which is progressive but irreversible at present, delirium from alcoholism or other causes which may be reversed, at least to a degree. He also referred to forms of psychosis, including schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, which may be controllable either substantially or to some degree by anti-psychotic medications. Many of the conditions he referred to are described below together with their likely impact on a person’s will-making capacity.
In Re Hodges; Shorter v Hodges, Powell J noted the opinion of a leading psychiatrist giving expert evidence that the cognitive changes brought about by depression did not affect the person’s capacity to reason but affected the person’s motivation for action and held that a depressed person who shot himself soon after making a will had will-making capacity when he made it.
When a person has been prone to bouts of alcoholism the question has arisen as to whether or not they could make a valid will. In Landers v Landers a man had temporary beliefs described as absurd when affected by alcohol. The question that the High Court dealt with was put by Rich J as “whether the delusion alleged to exist in the mind of the testator when drunk was also present in his mind when sober”. As the evidence satisfied the court that the alleged delusion did not affect the will-maker when he made his will, the High Court held that he had will-making capacity at that time. As already noted, Timbury v Coffee was a case of a will-maker who drank himself into a state of physical exhaustion and mental disturbance. In the intervals between the bouts he behaved in a reasonable manner in most respects. Nevertheless, he developed an intermittent distrust of and antagonism towards his wife. Even when apparently free from alcoholism, he sometimes recounted incidents relating to her that were improbable and, in some cases, inconsistent with the proven facts. He made four wills during intervals between his bouts of alcoholism. The facts of the case were decided by a jury. The jury decided that he was not of sound mind, memory and understanding when he made his last will, but was in that state when he made his second last will. The High Court did not interfere with the jury’s findings.
Advanced age does not of itself prove that the will-maker was incapable, even when associated with serious illness. However, the will of such a person will be carefully scrutinized by the court. In 1924, in Bailey v Bailey the five members of the High Court agreed on the principle, but disagreed as to whether the will-maker had capacity. The minority stated the principle as:
[G]reat age, while it necessarily excites the vigilance of the Court, does not of itself establish want of capacity.
Mr Bailey was 88 and suffering from pneumonia when in 1923 he made what was his seventh will. He signed it with a mark as he was too ill to sign his name. He died three days later. The majority of the High Court upheld this will rather than his sixth will made in 1914. For a more recent example, see Re Estate of Bellew. In that case an unsigned will was accepted as the last will of an elderly woman, aged either 88 or 90. She was suffering from a degree of dementia as well as congestive heart failure and renal failure. She was also the subject of a guardianship order.
One of the disadvantages of advancing age is the risk the onset of dementia. The fact that a person has got dementia does not preclude them from making a will. A will made by a woman when she had mild dementia was upheld in the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1998. The key issue is the severity of the dementia and whether it impaired insight, judgment and decision-making skills.
In a 2009 case, even though Vickery J of the Supreme Court of Victoria found, the evidence as a whole is sufficient to throw doubt upon the competency of the will-maker, he was positively satisfied that she was of sound mind, memory and understanding when she executed her1999 will and her March 2000 codicil. He noted that:
[A]t the time when she gave her instructions for those instruments, she knew what she was doing, and she understood the effect of the principal clauses in the will; she had a general knowledge of the nature of her property and that it was an estate of significant value; and she acknowledged the friends and relatives who she ought to have considered at the time.
Although Vickery J found that by mid-1999 the will-maker was suffering from cognitive impairment characteristic of the pre-dementia stage of Alzheimer’s disease and remained in that condition in March 2000, that degree of mental impairment did not necessarily preclude her from having will-making capacity as defined in law, and that it did not have that effect in either 1999 or March 2000. However, he was affirmatively satisfied that by December 2000 and in 2001 she was not of sound mind, memory and understanding. Consequently, the December 2000 codicil and the 2001 will were not valid and were set aside.
Further, Vickery J provided another basis for supporting the right of will-makers to make wills even if they cognitive disabilities. He referred to Article 12(2) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006 which Australia has ratified and which is in force. Vickery J noted that in the context of will-making, the Convention provided for “an obligation on Australia to recognise that persons with disabilities enjoy the exercise of the right to freedom of testamentary disposition on an equal basis with all other persons”.
Most wills are not contested and the executor will obtain the permission of the Supreme Court to distribute the estate, that is the real and personal property of the will-maker who has died. This is done by a process called seeking probate of the will in common form. If the will is contested, the process is to seek a grant of probate from the Court in “solemn form”. The effect of such a grant of probate is that it is binding on all the parties to the court action and everyone else, subject to certain exceptions. Usually the executor, but sometimes another person, applies to the Supreme Court for a grant of probate in solemn form. Whoever does so is said to “propound” the will. They bear the onus of proving that the will is the validly made and valid last will and testament of the will-maker. This onus of proof, which is to the civil standard of balance of probabilities, remains with them until the end of the process. Even though during the process the onus may shift to a party alleging that the will should not be admitted to probate to show why it should not be so admitted, the ultimate responsibility of satisfying the Court that the will should be admitted to probate lies with the applicant. However, where a will is rational on its face and duly executed, there is a presumption that the will-maker had will-making capacity. Nevertheless, that presumption is rebuttable and the legal onus remains with those “propounding” the will.
That part of the test relating to the will-making capacity of the will-maker was restated in 1995 by Gleeson CJ, when he was still Chief Justice of New South Wales, as follows:
Where the evidence in a suit for probate raises a doubt as to testamentary capacity, there rests upon the plaintiff the burden of satisfying the conscience of the court that the [will-maker] had such capacity at the relevant time. If, following a vigilant examination of the whole of the evidence, the doubt is felt to be substantial enough to preclude a belief that the [will-maker] was of sound mind, memory and understanding at the time of execution of the will, probate will not be granted.
In a 2010 case, Briggs J of the English Court of Chancery stated the burden of proof “rules” for will-making capacity even more plainly but using the legal terminology of “testamentary capacity” and “propounder”. He said:
The burden of proof in relation to testamentary capacity is subject to the following rules:
1. While the burden starts with the propounder of a will to establish capacity, where the will is duly executed and appears rational on its face, then the court will presume capacity.
2. In such a case the evidential burden then shifts to the objector to raise a real doubt about capacity.
3. If a real doubt is raised, the evidential burden shifts back to the propounder to establish capacity nonetheless.
When people with cognitive deficits suddenly makes their first will or a new will benefitting those who have played a role in getting the will made, these circumstances will be treated as suspicious with implications for those wishing to prove that a will made in these circumstances was valid.
Experience has shown suspicious circumstances and undue influence being exerted on the will-maker are often linked. In a 1968 case Scarman J claimed that Lord Penzance, a famous English judge of the second half of the 19th century, had once said that the issues of will-making capacity, knowledge and approval, undue influence and fraud very often merged into one another. Where a person was old, ill and feeble and has cognitive deficits or is a person with acquired brain damage, psychiatric condition or intellectual disabilities reducing their capacity to appreciate what they are doing and make decisions, they were sometimes encouraged by unscrupulous family members or “new found friends” to make wills in their favour. Getting the person to make a new will favouring people who would not normally have a claim to the person’s bounty or to give disproportionate benefits to one such claimant over other claimants are two common ways among the myriad of ways in which vulnerable, cognitively impaired individuals can be taken advantage of. Such wills can be challenged but only after the death of the will-maker when probate of their will is being sought so that their estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries. Gifts made during life time are treated differently and are dealt with in Chapter 3.
One approach is to allege suspicious circumstances another is to claim undue influence in the will-making process. Despite the fact that they may arise from the same fact situations, they are treated differently by the courts.
There are no restrictions on the factual situations which may constitute suspicious circumstances. Wherever a well-grounded suspicion is raised, those who wish to prove that the will is valid must remove the suspicion. The whole will is of no effect if they fail to do so. The principles to be applied in suspicious circumstances cases are clear and have been authoritatively stated by the High Court. Adapting the words of Isaacs J, these can be summarized as follows:
1. where there are no circumstances exciting suspicion that the will-maker may not have fully known or approved the provisions of the will, the mere proof of the will-maker’s capacity and of the fact of the due execution of the will creates an assumption that will-maker knew of and assented to its contents,
2. where any suspicious circumstances exist, the assumption does not arise, and the proponents have the burden of removing the suspicion by proving affirmatively by clear and satisfactory proof (on the balance of probabilities) that the will-maker knew and approved of the contents of the will,
3. a probate court’s suspicion will be aroused if the person who wrote or prepared the will is to take a benefit under it. It will be expected to undertake a vigilant and anxious examination of the evidence as to the will-maker's appreciation and approval of the contents of the will,
4. where a probate court is not satisfied that the will does contain the real intention of the will-maker, the court is bound to find that the will is not entitled to probate,
5. however, this ‘rule’ goes no further than requiring vigilance in seeing that the case is fully proved. It does not introduce a disqualification,
6. nor does it require, as a matter of law, any particular species of proof to satisfy the onus of proof on the applicant to the court,
7. also, the requirement that suspicion must be cleared away does not create 'a screen' behind which fraud or dishonesty may be relied on without pleading them specifically when bringing the application.
If the suspicious circumstances, whatever their nature, are not dispelled, the will will not be not admitted to probate. It is only when suspicion is removed by proof that the will-maker knew and approved of the contents of the will that the onus is thrown on those who oppose the will to prove the fraud or undue influence, or whatever else they rely on to displace the case made for proving the will. At this point it is likely that, even though the will-maker is considered to have capacity, often as a result of the common law’s policy of upholding a person’s right to make a will despite weakening capability set out in 4. 5 above, there will be substantial evidence of the will-maker’s decline or long-time low capacity to make a will and evidence giving rise the possibility of undue influence.
The most succinct description of undue influence in relation to will-making was given by Sir James Hannen P in 1885 as follows:
To be undue influence in the eye of the law there must be – to sum it up in a word – coercion.
A few lines later he continued:
It is only when the will of the person who becomes the testator is coerced into doing something he or she has no desire to do, that it is undue influence.
Hood J of the Supreme Court of Victoria was similarly succinct when in 1897 he said:
To constitute undue influence there must be coercion or pressure, so as to overpower the volition of the testatrix; there must be some substitution of another mind for hers.
In 1868, Sir J.P. Wilde (later Lord Penzance) had been more discursive. He noted that to make a valid will the will-maker must be a free agent, but that not all influences were unlawful. He continued:
[P]ressure of whatever character, whether acting on the fears or the hopes, if so exerted as to overcome the volition without convincing the judgment, is a species of restraint under which no valid will can be made. Importunity or threats, such as the testator has not the courage to resist, moral command asserted and yielded to for the sake of peace and quiet, or of escaping from distress of mind or social discomfort, these, if carried to a degree in which the free play of the testator’s judgment, discretion or wishes is overborne, will constitute undue influence, though no force is either used or threatened.
In 2003 in the Supreme Court of Queensland, and relying on late 20th century authority, Jones J said:
Where a will, apparently regularly executed, by a person of competent understanding is challenged on the ground of undue influence the burden of establishing that its execution was so influenced lies on the person making the assertion.
To succeed in this … the defendant must prove the following:-
(a) that the plaintiff had the capacity to influence the complainant;
(b) the influence was exercised;
(c) its exercise was undue
(d) its exercise brought about the transaction.
The standard of proof is always on the balance of probabilities. However, the strength of the evidence necessary to establish a fact or facts on the balance of probabilities may vary according to the nature of what it is sought to prove. Mere suspicion on behalf of a disappointed potential beneficiary, without more, is not sufficient to suggest that the will-maker was overcome by undue influence. In many cases those alleging undue influence will have to rely on circumstantial evidence to prove it. This is because the source of the best evidence on the matter, the will-maker, is already dead, and those against whom the undue influence is alleged will usually deny it.
The accepted position used to be, and may still be in New South Wales, that, if the evidence relied upon was circumstantial, it was not sufficient to show that the circumstances surrounding the execution of the will were consistent with the hypothesis that the will was obtained by undue influence. It had to be shown that the circumstances were also inconsistent with a contrary hypothesis. In a 2009 decision, Vickery J of the Supreme Court of Victoria criticised that standard of proof stating that:
[It] imports a formidable standard of proof and imposes a significant constriction on the capacity of the principle to provide an effective remedy in cases where testamentary undue influence may arise. It not only goes beyond the accepted civil standard of proof applied in Australia in cases sought to be made out by circumstantial evidence, but the formulation equates to the criminal standard, and arguably even goes beyond that standard.
Following the well established Australian position that the standard of proof in civil cases is always proof on the balance of probabilities, Vickery J said that where an allegation of undue influence required a probate court to draw an inference from circumstantial evidence, the court must be satisfied that the circumstances raised a more probable inference in favour of what was alleged than not, after the evidence on the question had been evaluated as a whole. Vickery J went on to point out:
An allegation of testamentary undue influence is a serious matter with potentially significant consequences for the expression of the will of a testator and for the testamentary dispositions made under it. Further, the exercise of undue influence in a testamentary context may also be regarded as an inherently unlikely event in the circumstances of most cases. Expectant beneficiaries do not ordinarily put pressure on elderly testators in an endeavour to change their minds against their will. Bearing these matters in mind, in the assessment of the evidence which has been marshaled in support of the allegation made in this case, and in arriving at the ultimate conclusion, I adopt and apply the approach of Dixon J in Briginshaw v Briginshaw and the majority in Neat Holdings Pty Ltd v Karajan Holdings Pty Ltd.
While it is suggested that Vickery J has stated the test correctly in terms of the law on the standard of proof in civil cases in Australia, it should be noted that the established position in New South Wales, based on the 19th century English authority, is that to succeed with a claim for undue influence, the applicant has to prove the actual coercion. Undue influence cannot be inferred; consequently evidence of circumstances consistent with coercion, but not amounting to proof of coercion, is not enough. As Windeyer J pointed out in Revie v Druitt, it is difficult to prove undue influence:
It is generally recognized that it is extremely difficult to prove undue influence. The person who could give the best evidence is dead. That does not mean that it is impossible to establish undue influence, although I know of no case in New South Wales where the issue has been successfully raised.
In its 1986 report, “Wills: Execution and Revocation” the New South Wales Law Reform Commission noted that the strict law of probate, under which undue influence cannot be inferred, permitted if not encouraged pressure, particularly on the old and feeble and that this had led one of its consultants to suggest that equitable principles, including presumptions of influence, should be introduced into the law of wills.  The Commission did not recommend either way on this matter and the law has not yet been changed by either the judges or the parliament. Nevertheless, concerns still remain that some will-makers die having made wills that do not represent their true intentions and which cannot be rectified after their death. 
First, it must be understood that undue influence and lack of capacity to make the challenged will are mutually exclusive. For a court to make a finding of undue influence, it must first have found that the person possessed the capacity to make a will. Deciding which is the predominant issue in the legal challenge, lack of capacity to make a will or undue influence, is the work of the lawyers running the case, but that decision is likely to be made in the light of the report provided by the clinician expert.
Second, the clinician expert’s evidence should deal with the question of the will-maker’s vulnerability to undue influence. It is for the court to decide whether influence was exercised or not. To that end, a recent international task force has outlined the kind of risk factors that make a will-maker vulnerable to undue influence. These include:
1. Relationship risk factors namely, “confidential” or close relationships between vulnerable will-makers and a range of family members, friends, associates or carers.
2. Social or environmental risk factors such as dependency and isolation.
3. Psychological factors such as delirium; emotional vulnerability conferred by grief, loneliness, death bed situations and sexual bargaining; personality traits such as dependency, psychiatric illnesses such as depression, psychosis and anxiety, and cognitive impairment. With regards to cognitive impairment, Shulman et al’s threshold concept suggests that a will-maker with only mild impairment of cognitive function has to be subjected to a severe level influence to the point of coercion or containment before that influence would be considered undue. However, as the disease progresses to more severe dementia the person would be more susceptible to subtle influence.  This in turn must be tempered by an understanding of the person’s individual pattern of cognitive deficits such that someone with only mild cognitive impairment associated with frontal lobe deficits in judgment may be particularly susceptible to influence even though their dementia is only mild.
4. Legal risk factors such as the procurement of the will by the beneficiary who is favoured in the will, unnatural provisions which exclude natural beneficiaries, and a will which is inconsistent with previous wishes:
Clinicians should be mindful that there are also probably “‘protective” or mitigating factors which render a person resistant to the opinion and advice of others. These might include non-specific suspiciousness towards all and sundry including possible “influencers” (this contrasts with suspicion or paranoid ideation focused on one person who is a possible beneficiary which can be exploited by an “influencer” who may fuel the paranoia and encourage exclusion of that person from the will). Similarly, personality traits of stubbornness, intransigence and belligerence may be protective against influence.
Furthermore, while some disabled older people are vulnerable to the influence of carers, others use their wealth to manipulate carers. It is not unusual for older persons with financial resources to bargain with carers, using promises of will bequests to secure promises of care.
The matters dealt with above may only be raised in the context of an application for probate or the revocation of probate of a will-maker who has died. The Supreme Courts of all the States and the two Territories have powers to make or alter wills or to revoke them in whole or on part during the lifetime of a person who does not have will-making capacity. In Tasmania the Guardianship and Administration Board has the power to make a will on behalf of a person who does not have will-making capacity.
The South Australian case of Public Trustee v Phillips provides an example of a classic case of a will made by an elderly person with dementia acting under the undue influence of another. Mrs Phillips was in her mid seventies in 1996 when the Guardianship Board of South Australia found that she had dementia and was unable to manage her own affairs. The Board appointed the Public Trustee to administer her financial affairs for her. The evidence was that Mrs Phillips had been unable to manage her affairs because of dementia from about 1993. In 1992 she came under the influence of a Mr Venning who persuaded her to buy a car, although she didn’t drive, and to sell her home unit and buy a house. Mrs Phillips then executed a power of attorney appointing Mr Venning as her attorney. Acting under the power of attorney, Mr Venning undertook a number of transactions in relation to Mrs Phillips’ property. These transactions disadvantaged her and substantially advantaged him. In May 1993 Mrs Phillips made a will appointing Mr Venning as her sole executor and allowing him to control the disposition of her estate and to direct it to himself if he so wished. Doyle CJ found that Mrs Phillips made this will as a result of the influence exercised over her by Mr Venning and without a proper appreciation of his motives.
Under the Wills Act 1936 (SA) the Supreme Court may make an order revoking the will of a person who lacks will-making capacity. It may also make or alter the will of such a person. The Public Trustee, as administrator of Mrs Phillips’s estate, was given leave to apply for such an order. Doyle CJ was satisfied that while Mrs Phillips had lost will-making capacity she had indicated that she wanted her son to inherit her estate. She would not want Mr Venning to benefit by inheriting her estate and that she would not want her 1993 will to remain unrevoked. Doyle CJ revoked that will.
As already noted, the Guardianship and Administration Board of Tasmania has the power to authorise the making of a will on behalf of a person who does not have will-making capacity. However, the Board may direct the application to it be made to the Supreme Court. While the Board may authorise the making of a will and revoke any will made under its orders, it does not have the capacity to revoke a will made by a person when they did not have will-making capacity. However, the Supreme Court has this power within its broad power to revoke a will of a person who lacks will-making power.
The test for will-making capacity is long-standing and stable yet not so intransigent as to fail to take into account new medical, psychiatric and psychological knowledge and the fact that many more people are much wealthier than in the 19th century with a wider range of assets which may include real property and a number of different kinds of personal property.
There is an expectation that solicitors will take great care and careful notes when obtaining instructions from those whose will-making capacity may be in doubt. They are also expected to obtain medical and other appropriate advice about whether the will-maker’s capacity to meet all the elements of the legal test for such capacity both at the time the instructions for the will were taken and again at the time of the execution of the will if there is a significant gap between those two events.
The positive attitude of the courts to the evidence of those who were familiar with the will-maker in day to day life and who were lay to medicine is shown in the following examples. A specialist geriatrician gave an opinion more than four years after the death of the will-maker that he lacked capacity when he made his last will. However, this opinion was not accepted because the contrary evidence of a number of witnesses who had extensive contact with the will-maker. The evidence of a will-maker’s general practitioner was found not to be particularly helpful and the trial judge applied the evidence of the expert witnesses only to the extent that it supported rather than trumped or contradicted the evidence from other non-expert sources. In a case in which the will-maker made a will in 1995 and was made the subject of a financial management order by the Guardianship Tribunal of New South Wales in 2000, experienced consultant psychiatrists were used by both sides. One psychiatrist said that the will-maker had capacity in 1995; the other took the contrary view. The trial judge considered neither expert witness convincing, partly because they both relied on statements excluded from the evidence but also because they had little evidence of the day to day life of the will-maker to assist them. The judge gave detailed consideration to the evidence of the non-expert witnesses.
There is a tendency to treat the solicitors who took the instructions and drafted the contested will as independent witnesses when consideration is given to their views about the capacity of will-maker to make a will.
The cases also show the respect, even the preference, that is given to the evidence of those able to relate their observations of the will-maker at, or about, the time the will was made. As a result, it does not follow that the evidence of medical specialists or psychologists, no matter how eminent, will be accepted in preference to the evidence of the solicitor who took the instructions and was involved with the execution of the will or in preference to the evidence of other eye-witnesses.
It is also essential that doctors and other expert witnesses are advised of the legal test for will-making capacity before they provide their opinions. That issue and the attitude of the courts to the evidence of health professionals retained to give expert witness opinions about a person’s will-making capacity after the person’s death are reflected in Seale v Cross. In that case, a doctor gave an opinion after the death of the will-maker and more than four years after the will was made to the effect that the will-maker did not have will-making capacity when she made her last will. The doctor’s evidence was not given much weight because it was based on someone else’s diagnosis of “emerging Alzheimer’s disease” and the doctor’s assumption that such a diagnosis was inconsistent with will-making capacity. Also the doctor’s opinion did not show an understanding of the legal test for incapacity. On the other hand the evidence of will-making capacity came from one of those seeking to prove the validity of the will who was a registered nurse and who had had a great deal of contact with the will-maker, especially during the latter part of her life. The validity of the will was upheld.
This review of the cases indicates an apparent preference by judges to uphold the right of a person to make a will even if they have cognitive defects and are the subject of guardianship or administration orders made by tribunals exercising guardianship jurisdiction.
The fact that those who have been found to lack decision-making capacity and to be in need of either a guardian or an administrator or both and the legal policy in favour of upholding the right of adults to make wills even if they are cognitively impaired emphasises the need for doctors and other health professionals to appreciate the differences between the legal tests for will-making capacity and for capacity for other purposes. This situation creates tensions between those trying to give effect to a person’s capacity to make or remake a will and service providers seeking to protect those with cognitive defects from exploitation. However, that is only one example of the complexities, tensions and uncertainties that can arise when action is taken to help or pressure a person to make that will when their will-making capacity is, or may be seen to be in the future to have been in doubt when they made the will in question.
It is not always easy for solicitors to identify those clients who are incompetent because people with early dementia may appear relatively normal on casual conversation and maintain their social graces particularly in earlier stages of the disease. This observation is incorporated in dementia staging systems such as the CDR, which acknowledge that dementia may not be evident to others until moderate to severe stages of the disease. Further, lawyers cannot always rely on family members to inform them that a client has dementia because families often deny early signs of dementia out of fear of the diagnosis or dismiss such signs as “normal for that age”. Even health care professionals dealing with the client may be no more alert to the diagnosis. Dementia can be missed unless it is specifically looked for. Family doctors, many of whom rely on passive identification rather than active screening of dementia for diagnosis, often fail to identify dementia. Studies have shown consistently that 80-91% of cases of dementia are missed by general practitioners. The same is often true for nursing staff in nursing homes. Finally, the determination of testamentary capacity is a highly specialised task based on structured assessment.
As already noted, it is therefore prudent in all cases, if not essential, to document the process of taking instructions from all clients over 65. It is also wise to normalise the process so as not to alienate elderly clients who may be offended by any suggestion of infirmity or incapacity. The following explanation might be helpful:
I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to ask you some questions in order to properly document this will-making process. I do this with everyone who comes to see me over 65.
It may be helpful to ask the client to:
1. “describe your assets”; and,
2. “describe who your heirs are, how they are related to you”; and
3. “why you are disposing of your property in the way you have chosen”.
It is preferable if the health care professional can be given information about previous wills and the person’s will-making pattern. The person changing their will should be questioned about the rationale behind any proposed changes to the way they had previously disposed of their property in their will.
When checking the knowledge or understanding of the client, they should be asked to explain the effect of what they are doing in their own words. Their responses should be recorded verbatim. It is important to remember that an affirmative answer to the question: “Do you understand what this will contains?” is not an adequate reflection of understanding
Further, as orientation and social presentation are separate from the cognitive functions required for will-making, the observation that a person was “pleasant, well–dressed and chatted about the weather” does not help prove that they had capacity to carry out the will-making process competently.
It is prudent to inquire specifically whether the will-maker has been the subject of any application to the guardianship and administration tribunal in the relevant State or Territory and whether any administration or financial management order has been made in relation to them by that tribunal, any other tribunal or a Supreme Court. It is also wise to enquire whether any enduring power of attorney is in operation or whether the person has made an appointment of enduring guardian, and who the enduring attorney and the enduring guardian are. It is also useful to check whether the person is still making their own medical consent decisions or whether their “person responsible” or other legally authorised substitute decision-maker is doing that for them. While none of these matters demonstrate that the person has lost will-making capacity it puts people on notice that they may have done so.
Banks v Goodfellow was based on a case of psychosis. These days cases of dementia far outnumber cases of psychosis as the basis for will challenges. In a case series of 25 challenges to testamentary capacity referred to a Canadian psychiatrist, 40% were based on dementia, 28% were alcohol related, 28% based on neurological or psychiatric disorder, 20% to personality disorder and 12% related to suicide . The personal experience with will challenges of one of the authors reflects a similar, but greater, preponderance of dementia amongst a heterogeneous group of syndromes observed. In a series of 41 will challenges, 78% were based on dementia, 7% on delirium or complex medical conditions, 5% on schizophrenia or paranoid states, and 2.5% each on alcohol, personality disorder, bipolar disorder and depression/suicide. Although not as frequently represented as the primary condition, alcohol abuse was the most common co-morbid condition. Clearly this will vary according to the specialty of the expert and the patterns of referral to psychologists or geriatricians may well differ.
4. 9. 3. 1. Dementia and testamentary capacity: definition and causes
Dementia is a neurodegenerative syndrome characterised by the development of multiple, cognitive (intellectual) deficits, usually including memory impairment. According to the DSM- IV, dementia is diagnosed in the presence of memory impairment and one or more of the following cognitive disturbances:
1. aphasia (language disturbance)
2. apraxia (impaired ability to carry out motor activities or translate ideas into actions)
3. agnosia (failure to recognise or identify objects)
4. disturbance in executive functioning (ie, planning, organising, sequencing, abstracting)
To satisfy the criteria for a diagnosis of dementia these cognitive deficits must cause significant impairment in social and occupational functioning and represent a significant decline from a previous level of functioning. As already noted, a diagnosis of dementia does not preclude testamentary capacity.
There are over one hundred causes of dementia, although Alzheimer’s disease is thought to be the most common cause, followed by Vascular Dementia and Lewy Body Dementia, depending on whether clinical or autopsy diagnoses are examined. Mixed dementia is far more common than was previously suspected. Approximate relative contributions of various causes of dementia are as follows: pure Alzheimer’s Disease 35%; Mixed Vascular Dementia /Alzheimer’s disease 15%; Pure Vascular Disease 10%; Lewy Body Dementia 15%; Fronto-Temporal Lobe Disease 5%; and Other 20% . Each type of dementia is associated with a particular type and distribution of brain pathology, cognitive profile and rate and nature of decline with variable impact on capacity.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder characterised by the deposition of protein aggregates called plaques and neuronal inclusions called tangles. These develop initially in the temporal lobe regions of the brain but spread to involve other cortical areas. Alzheimers’ disease is manifested by early memory loss accompanied by multiple deficits in language, motor skills and perception and with gradually continuing global cognitive decline and progressive worsening of function.
Vascular dementia is defined as dementia that results from vascular or circulatory lesions (i.e. cerebrovascular disease) in the brain. Such lesions may include obvious stroke/s involving occlusion of large vessels but there are multiple types of “small vessel dementias” which may involve tiny complete or incomplete “silent strokes” (of which the person may be unaware), disease of the blood vessels and surrounding brain and hemorrhagic lesions. The pattern of deficits depends on the location and distribution of such lesions but in general, patients with vascular dementia have only modest problems with memory but with significant executive (i.e. problems with planning and judgment) dysfunction.
Dementia with Lewy Bodies has been acknowledged increasingly as a relatively common cause of dementia; some would say the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, at least at autopsy. It is characterised by the presence of spherical bodies inside brain neurons and a clinical presentation of dementia with early problems with attention, judgment and visuospatial difficulties predominating over memory deficits, falls, signs of Parkinsonism and prominent hallucinations.
Distinguishing the cause of dementia in a person whose will-making capacity is being questioned is relevant insofar as it may help predict the likelihood of certain deficits at different stages of the disease, although there is still much variation between individuals. For example, as stated previously, someone with vascular dementia may have early loss of frontal, “executive” functions such as judgment and reasoning, because of the vulnerability of the frontal lobe to the type of cerebrovascular pathology that causes vascular dementia, and accordingly early difficulties weighing the claims of beneficiaries.
4. 9. 3. 1. 1. The relevance of severity of dementia
An assessment of the severity of dementia is usually based on the extent of the person’s cognitive and functional impairment. A person in the early stages of dementia may require minimal assistance or prompting in their performance of activities of daily living. At the later stage they may be totally dependant on others for basic activities such as feeding and toileting and in the final stages of dementia the person may be bedridden. Thus, although there is probably only a modest correlation between performance on scales which measure functional impairment and will-making capacity, performance on such scales may give an idea of the severity of the person’s dementia.
Also, general cognitive screens such as the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) do not identify incapable people with any degree of sensitivity or specificity except at the extremes of performance.  The MMSE is a bedside screen of cognitive function. It is not a diagnosis; it is merely a guide for rating severity. A MMSE score between 18 and 24 suggests mild dementia; a score of 10 to 17 suggests moderate dementia and less than 10, severe dementia. These thresholds are very loose as scores on the MMSE vary according to education, language, how it is administered and how the patient feels on the day. Further, the MMSE is limited in value because of its failure to include items which test frontal or executive function which are crucial in the will-making process. In slowly progressive dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease, a person may lose 3 to 4 points on the MMSE per year.
When assessing the relevance of severity to capacity, it is important to consider each case on its individual merits. In particular, the job of the expert is to consider the cognitive capacity of the person in the context of the complexity or “task specific” aspects of the decision to be made, as suggested by Shulman and others. For example, a person with severe dementia may still have capacity to distribute a simple estate, for example if their only asset was their house to be bequeathed to one surviving relative, while a person with mild dementia may have difficulty apportioning an estate involving a complex share and real estate portfolio in various proportions amongst multiple beneficiaries. Importantly, dementia does not have to be severe to affect one’s capacity for highly complex reasoning such as appraisal of family members as discussed in Chapter 1.2.
4. 9. 3. 1. 2. Dementia and lucid intervals
As stated previously, the courts have long held the idea that those with mental illnesses may be able to make wills during lucid periods. However, it is generally agreed among clinicians that while persons with dementia may have better days or better times of the day, those with advanced dementia do not have “lucid-enough” intervals to make a will competently during those periods. While much has been made of the determination of mental capacity at the precise moment the will is made, it is often difficult to ignore the “before and after evidence”. Windeyer J, in Robinson v Spratt accepted evidence as to “good days and bad days” but noted:
The clear psychiatric evidence is that the deceased was on a downhill path from 1989 onwards as a result of dementia. There were some better periods but the path was always downwards.
4. 9. 3. 2. Aphasia
One of the hallmarks of capacity is the ability to communicate a preference or a decision and is thus dependent on language performance. Aphasia is defined as an impairment in the understanding or transmission of ideas by language in any of its forms, namely, speaking (expressive and receptive speech), reading or writing, which is due to brain injury or disease,  most commonly stroke. The presence of aphasia may thus hamper the assessment of both capacity and overall cognitive function. The challenge for the clinician is to determine the extent of cognitive impairment, if any, accompanying aphasia. Indeed there is mounting evidence to suggest that it is impossible to predict the status of other aspects of cognition on the basis of language skills. Higher level executive skills such as involved in judgment, flexibility, planning and foresight are the most vulnerable to the effects of brain damage associated with aphasia and must be carefully screened for in such patients. Therefore, previous suggestions of using prompted recall and recognition memory with cues (e.g. identifying the correct response from a list of correct and incorrect answers) to maximize communication with an aphasic will-maker provide fairly gross estimation of understanding and should be best interpreted by a speech-language pathologist.  It is advised that a speech-language pathologist facilitate communication between a client with language disturbance and solicitor or a client and an expert assessing capacity.
4. 9. 3. 3. Delirium
Delirium is a transient, often fluctuating impairment in consciousness, attention and cognition. It may mimic dementia, but it is of sudden onset and is caused by underlying physical illness such as chest or urinary tract infection or drug toxicity. It is usually reversible once its underlying cause is treated; however it often complicates dementia making the dementia appear temporarily worse. Delirium may affect will-making capacity due to its global effects on cognition, and particularly because of its effects on concentration, perception of reality, memory and reasoning, although the effect on will-making will depend largely on the severity of the delirium, its fluctuation, and the complexity of the will-making task. The issue of delirium is usually relevant when instructions are taken in the hospital setting, particularly when someone decides, or is prompted, to make a will on their “death bed” or when they are extremely unwell. Consequently, any doctor assessing a person’s will-making capacity, either contemporaneously or subsequently, should be extremely careful to assess whether or not the person had delirium when they made the relevant will.
4. 9. 3. 4. Alcohol and drug-related disorders
Alcohol-related disorder is an important co-morbid condition in documented will challenges, comprising 28% of the challenges in one small series. Regardless of whether or not the will-maker suffered habitual intoxication, abuse or dependence, the effect of alcohol abuse is only relevant if the person was intoxicated, withdrawing from alcohol or suffering other consequences of alcohol abuse such as paranoid ideation or brain damage at the time of making the will and that such mental disorder rendered the person incapable of performing one or more of the mental functions necessary to make a valid will. , This was illustrated in Timbury v Coffee, a case in which the will-maker’s suspicions, distrust, resentment and tendency to hostility towards his wife as a result of his alcoholism were enough for the jury to find that he was “not of sound disposing mind” when he made his last will . The overuse of alcohol can cause permanent brain damage and, as a’Beckett J pointed out in In re White, cause, to a great extent, the loss of a person’s will and intelligence such that they can easily be influenced when making their will.
This is the case with any drug-related disorder. Drugs (and this means both therapeutic and recreational) or withdrawal from them can cause changes in consciousness, perception of reality and reasoning all of which can impact on the will-making process. Drug effect can vary between subtly altering the way complex decisions are made at one extreme, to rendering a patient unconscious at the other.
4. 9. 3. 5. Psychotic conditions such as schizophrenia
Psychotic symptoms include delusions (fixed false ideas about poverty, theft, sin, paranoia etc) and hallucinations (false sensory perceptions such as hearing voices). Some elderly people suffer psychotic symptoms due to illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic depressive disorder) which they have developed earlier in life and continue to suffer in old age while others present with such illnesses for the first time in old age. Psychotic symptoms may also complicate dementia. Up to 86% of sufferers have depression, 205 to 73% have delusions and 15% to 49% have hallucinations. As with alcohol and other drug related disorders, psychotic symptoms are only relevant if they render the person incapable of performing one or more of the mental functions necessary to make a valid will.
4. 9. 3. 6. Mood disorders and suicide
Mood disorders such as depression will impact on the will-making process if they are accompanied by symptoms of hopelessness or delusions of persecution, poverty or sin which might effect the will-maker’s perception of his assets or relationships. As already noted, the act of suicide is not regarded as evidence per se of incapacity. Suicide usually occurs in the context of psychiatric disorders such as depression, alcohol abuse and delusional beliefs and its relevance to capacity must be interpreted in the light of these contextual psychiatric disorders as well as the nature of gifting set out in the will (i.e. whether it was expected or rational or otherwise) and the proximity of the making of the will to the writing of the suicide note and the suicide itself.
4. 9. 3. 7. Personality disorder
As stated previously, the law draws a distinction between mere antipathy, albeit unreasonable, towards one who has a claim, and judgment affected by disorder of the mind. This was exemplified in the case of Re Estate of Griffith. Mrs Griffith was a widow who made no provision for her son, her only child, in her final will. Prior to this, their relationship had irretrievably broken down such that they did not speak to each in the last ten years of her life. He had been a dutiful and loving son who was attentive to his mother’s needs. Mrs Griffith had taken strong exception to his relationship with a lady friend. Emotions of possessiveness and jealousy may have been involved. There was evidence of a 14 year history of bizarre and aggressive behaviour on her part culminating in her bursting into her son’s room in the early hours of the morning brandishing a kitchen knife screaming that she hated him and telling him to get out.
The psychiatric evidence offered was that she suffered a paranoid personality disorder which manifested itself in delusions that her son did not care for her, that he was a threat to her and that he suffered from serious character defects. The trial judge, Santow J, was unable to conclude either way that Mrs Griffith’s rejection of her son stemmed from a paranoid personality disorder or a delusion of such extremity that as to connote a condition of insanity. He went on to note that if he had had to find that Mrs Griffith had had a delusion in the form of “a fixed and incorrigible false belief” that she could not be reasoned out of, he would have done so. However, he noted that the party wishing to prove that the will was valid had to show that she had will-making capacity at the time she made the will and that they had failed to do so. The New South Wales Court of Appeal upheld Santow J’s decision as a correct view of the law.
Gleeson CJ, with whom Handley JA agreed, noted that Santow J’s reasoning involved the premise that:
[I]t was unnecessary for him to make a positive finding that the testatrix was suffering from insane delusions in order for the onus of proof of testamentary capacity to fall upon the party propounding the will.
At the end of his judgment Gleeson CJ noted that the evidence of the psychiatrist:
[A]dded sufficient weight to the contention that what was here involved was mental disturbance, and a judgment that could be characterised, not merely as being unfair, but as being the product of mental disorder.
Court of Appeal’s decision stands for the proposition that a positive finding of delusion is not necessary to raise a doubt as to capacity. Gleeson CJ’s comments open up the possibility of the law catching up to where the knowledge of medicine is in relation to personality disorder. This knowledge includes a realization that personality disorders can have just as distorting an effect on a will-maker’s capacity as can what the law has called since 1870 at least, “insane delusions”.
Some personality disorders, such as paranoid (pervasive distrust and suspiciousness of others), borderline (pervasive instability of interpersonal relationships, self image and feelings) and narcissistic (pervasive grandiosity, need for admiration and lack of empathy) can present as serious disorders of mind, associated with abnormalities in mood, ideation and object relations (i.e. relations with loved ones). In severe cases, symptoms such as: (i) “splitting” namely distorted perceptions of others as belonging to either the idealized or all-good group, or the devalued or all-bad group (e.g. the good wife, the good grandson versus the bad sons and the bad wife); (ii) “idealization” namely attributing exaggerated positive qualities such as omnipotence and perfection to others; (iii) “devaluation”, namely attributing exaggerated negative qualities to others; and (iv) paranoid ideation with or without accompanying mood disturbance may poison affections towards beneficiaries and render a will-maker unable to adequately weigh the claims of potential beneficiaries.
Notwithstanding this, caution is advised when suggesting that personality disorder might be incompatible with will-making because the diagnosis of personality disorder is based on a life-long and enduring pattern of behaviour and relating to others. It is probably incompatible with sound disposition only in severe cases or during times of crisis or decompensation (i.e. when under stress, the person with personality disorder becomes particularly disturbed).
The importance of obtaining assessments by doctors or psychologists of a person’s will-making capacity before they make a will if their will-making capacity is in doubt is clear from the earlier parts of this chapter. It is also prudent, if it can be foreseen that the will is likely to be challenged and the will-maker’s estate is substantial, and it is possible to take the time to get a specialist’s opinion without risking the person dying before their will can be finalized, to seek and obtain that opinion contemporaneously. Despite the preference for contemporaneous evidence apparent from the decided cases, it is still worthwhile obtaining the (retrospective) opinion of an experienced specialist with the relevant expertise if the will is challenged after the death of the will-maker.
However, these expert opinions will have probative value only if the specialists retained are properly briefed as to the legal tests for will-making capacity and are provided with all the available documentary and other evidence about the will-maker’s capacity at the time they gave their instructions for and made their will and any other relevant factual information. These matters are taken up in more detail below.
4. 9. 4. 1. What kind of expert?
From the lawyer’s perspective, the first question is what kind of specialist is the most appropriate to give the expert opinion required in the circumstances. It is wise to retain a health care professional with relevant psychological (e.g. neuropsychologist), medical (e.g. neurologist or geriatrician) or psychiatric (e.g. general psychiatrist, forensic psychiatrist or psychogeriatrician) expertise and medico-legal experience. Different cases are more suited to different types of experts. For example, a psychiatrist may have special expertise to consider a case which relies on the presence of psychiatric disorder or psychotic symptoms. A neurologist or geriatrician may have special expertise in a case of delirium and complex medical conditions. A neuropsychologist may offer special expertise in a case in which there is little formal medical documentation of dementia and relies on extrapolation of behavioural disturbance to prove cognitive dysfunction.
When a health care professional is asked to act as an expert witness in any medico-legal case, they must turn their mind to the issue of expertise. Codes of conduct require experts to note if a question falls outside their field of expertise, so it is useful to consider: “Am I the best person to comment on this case? Should I recommend someone else? ”. After agreeing to take on the case, but before embarking on any work, it is helpful to outline the terms of engagement such as availability, hourly fees, approximate total cost and the expected procedure for finalising the report and payment.
4. 9. 4. 2. Assessment at the time the will is being made
As Santow J pointed out, if there is doubt about a person’s will-making capacity when they are making or remaking their will it is most prudent, if not essential, for the solicitor acting for the will-maker to have the will-maker examined by a health professional with expertise in assessing will-making capacity and to receive and consider that advice. If there is any significant time period between when the instructions for the will are taken and the will is executed (actually made), expert opinion about the person’s will-making capacity should be obtained contemporaneously with each occasion.
In such cases, the will document must give effect to the will-maker’s instructions and those instructions must continue to reflect those intentions. We would suggest that this last matter is to be inferred unless there is an evidential basis for believing that the will-maker changed their mind between giving instructions and executing the will. Crucially however for the will to be valid, the will-maker must know at the time they executed the will what they were doing and thus had sufficient mental capacity to carry out the juristic act which will-making involves. That specifically is what the will-maker must have capacity to understand in order to be found to have will-making capacity at the time they executed the will.
4. 9. 4. 3. What to provide to the expert
The expert dealing with a matter while the will-maker is still alive should be provided with the following:
1. A concise statement of the legal test for will-making capacity;
2. All of the will-maker’s previous wills to establish the will-making pattern;
3. Evidence of previously established trust on the part of the will-maker e.g. previously appointed attorneys under powers of attorney or appointed enduring guardians;
4. Any medical notes (e.g. notes of the will-maker’s general practitioner and any specialist medical reports relevant to capacity);
5. A family tree to establish the accuracy of the will-maker’s recall of potential beneficiaries;
6. An account of the will-maker’s assets to assess the accuracy of the will-maker’s knowledge of their estate.
4. 9. 4. 4. Making the contemporaneous assessment
Prior to assessing a client for a solicitor in a contemporaneous case it is essential that the expert be armed with the information outlined above. Consultation with the lawyer is important and sometimes it is helpful to have the solicitor present during the assessment. At the outset of the assessment, the expert assessor should establish the will-maker’s understanding of the nature and purpose of the assessment and get their consent to proceed.
In order to gauge the extent of the potential will-maker’s functional incapacity, it is useful to interview a person, such as a family member or carer, who has had regular and recent contact with the potential will-maker. It is advisable that any such interviewee should not be present in the room during the examination of the potential will-maker.
The assessment should include a medical and psychiatric history, mental status and cognitive examination in order to exclude or make a diagnosis of mental disorder, as well addressing the specific tests for testamentary capacity. Ultimately, the clinical examination should be linked to the will-maker’s capacity to meet the specific elements of testamentary capacity. The expert should, where possible, gain an understanding of the potential will-maker’s family relationships and the “emotional/psychological milieu” in which the will-maker lives with specific reference to conflicts or tensions within the family, of which the will-maker should be aware. The expert should also gain an understanding of the will-maker’s rationale for the disposition of their property in the light of family relationships and patterns of trust established in the previous will-making pattern or the pattern of other documents such as any powers of attorney. If possible, the will-maker should be asked to reflect on the implications of their decision. They should appreciate the consequences and impact of a particular disposition, especially if it excludes natural or usual beneficiaries such as close family members. The expert should seek clarification of concerns regarding potential beneficiaries who are excluded from the will or bequeathed lower amounts than expected.
Caution on this matter has been advised previously as people with frontal lobe deficits may be able to narrate in detail the consequences of an action without considering their significance. This may be particularly relevant if a person with dementia has been influenced and coached in their decision and is able to “parrot” reasons for disposing of their assets in a way which favours certain individuals. Careful probing is especially important if there is a proposed departure from previous wills or consistently expressed wishes. Such probing is also prudent if the potential will-maker proposed to make multiple changes in their will as a means of controlling individuals necessary for their support or independence or if those who appear to be the proper objects of the person’s bounty are excluded.
Shulman and others have provided a useful guide as to the questions that might be asked of the potential will-maker to assess their understanding of some of these issues. These are:
1. Can you tell me the reason(s) why you have decided to make changes in your will?
2. Why did you decide to divide the estate in this particular way?
3. Do you understand how individual A might feel, about being excluded from the will or about being given a significantly less amount than previously expected or promised?
4. Do you understand the economic implications for individual B of this particular distribution in your will?
5. Can you tell me about the important relationships in your family and others close to you?
6. Can you describe the nature of any family or personal disputes or tensions that may have influenced your distribution of assets? 
It is also helpful to ask the potential will-maker to repeat their intent with regards to disposition of their estate at the end of the consultation to check consistency. Some experts do assessments on two separate days to ensure this. It is important to document in detail the potential will-maker’s wishes. Some clinicians advocate tape or video assessments to ensure accuracy.
4. 9. 4. 5. Assessment after the will-maker has died
After the will-maker has died, any expert commenting on capacity is at a relative disadvantage compared to those who have seen the will-maker during life. Notwithstanding that, there is often a wealth of documentation, usually more than was available during the will-maker’s life, upon which an expert may draw their conclusions, providing they are given all the available and relevant documents.
4. 9. 4. 6. What to provide to the expert
The expert dealing with a matter after the will-maker has died should be provided with the following:
1. Any medical notes relating to the will-maker made contemporaneously with the will, especially the records of the will-maker’s general practitioner, hostel, nursing home or hospital progress reports, Aged Care Assessment Team notes.
2. Affidavits made by lay people relating to the will-maker’s relationships with their beneficiaries and any other relevant information from non-professional people which may point to a change in the will-maker’s personality or relationships, or show conflict coinciding with the will-maker’s dementing or other illnesses relevant to will-making capacity. Such lay people could include family members, friends and carers who had first-hand experience of the will-maker;
3. Evidence of previously established trust on the part of the will-maker e.g. previously appointed attorneys under powers of attorney or appointed enduring guardians;
4. All previous wills to establish the will-making pattern, or the lack of it;
5. Any file notes or affidavits from the solicitor who took instructions from the will-maker;
6. All documents provided to the experts acting for the other parties if litigation has been commenced.
4. 9. 4. 7. Retrospective assessment
Although retrospective assessment is often less valued by the courts, there is often more documentation available to the expert than that available to an expert making a contemporaneous assessment. There is usually more time available to gather the relevant material.
Medical records may provide detail about relevant medical conditions such as history of stroke, risk factors for cerebrovascular disease or the results of any cognitive examination. Progress notes from residential care facilities are particularly helpful in that they often document patterns of behaviour relevant to decision making in detail on and around the day the will was made; for example, behaviours reflective of poor impulse control, planning or judgment.
Evidence from lay people will often demonstrate the nature of family relationships or previously expressed wishes as well as provide descriptions of behaviour. All these matters must be interpreted in terms of their relationship to the legal criteria for will-making capacity. Less helpful aspects of lay testimony include the frequently made but faulty assumption that the will-maker was competent because their social graces had been preserved. 
4. 9. 5. 1. The content of the report
Regardless of whether the assessment is contemporaneous or retrospective, in addition to addressing the specific criteria for will-making capacity, the expert witness should provide an account of the will-maker’s relationships and must obtain their medical history, the history of their cognitive decline and the results of any cognitive examinations of the will-maker. These issues must be addressed in the expert’s report, a suggested outline of which is set out in the box below.
Suggested outline of report for will-making capacity:
1. Expertise or CV annexure;
2. Questions asked;
3. Acknowledgement of having read the relevant expert code;
4. Evidence upon which opinion is based (i.e. a list of the documents provided);
5. Circumstances of assessment if contemporaneous (i.e. visited at home/surgery for how long/who was present);
6. Facts, matters and assumptions upon which opinion is based;
(a) Personal history of the testator and family relationships;
(b) General medical history;
(c) History of cognitive decline or psychiatric history, if relevant;
(a) Diagnosis, including a rating of severity of cognitive impairment if possible;
(b) Outline legal tests for will-making capacity & address each element separately;
8. Conclusion (N.B. if the opinion is incomplete or not a concluded opinion, codes of conduct usually require a statement to that effect); and
9. References (codes of conduct usually require that any literature or other materials utilised in support of the opinions are outlined).
4. 9. 5. 2. The criteria for will-making capacity and how to assess them
While the Banks v Goodfellow criteria for defining will-making capacity remain the established law, a need to go beyond those criteria has been identified recently in the international literature. Shulman, Cohen and Hull have commented:
Many cases of challenges to testamentary capacity involve complex and subtle issues that call for a need to go beyond the traditional Banks v Goodfellow criteria. Lawyers and expert assessors need to ensure that they take into account the capacity to appreciate the consequences of executing a will especially in suspicious circumstances where there has been a radical change to a will in the context of a complex or conflictual environment or where there is evidence of a significant medical/neurologic condition.
Our understanding of psychopathology and cognition, and our expectations of will-makers today compared with those in 19th century England have evolved. This has had most impact on the criteria for knowledge of the nature and extent of assets (the threshold for which has been lowered) and for recalling and understanding the claims of potential beneficiaries (the threshold for which has risen).
As noted earlier, in Kerr v Badran, Windeyer J acknowledged the current day reality of understanding of assets which has in effect dropped the threshold for a will-maker to understanding the extent of their assets. In contrast, the New South Wales Court of Appeal case, Read v Carmody, may have raised the threshold for the appraisal of the claims of beneficiaries.  It was a case in which there were many who could qualify as the objects of the will-maker’s bounty, few of whom were included in the his final will which was made only two days after his second last will. The matter was resolved by the trial judge finding, and the Court of Appeal upholding that finding, that the will-maker had will-making capacity when he made his final will.
In that case Powell JA restated the Banks v Goodfellow criteria. His more complex description for the criteria for capacity has been modified into a set of questions for clinicians. These are as follows:
1. Is it likely that any impairment was present which may have compromised the deceased’s capacity with respect to an awareness and appreciation of the significance of the act of making a will?
2. Is it likely that any impairment was present which may have compromised the deceased’s capacity with respect to awareness in general terms of the nature and extent of his estate?
3. Is it likely that any impairment was present which may have compromised the deceased’s capacity with respect to an awareness of those who might reasonably have been thought to have a claim on the deceased’s testamentary bounty?
4. Is it likely that any impairment was present which may have compromised the deceased’s capacity with respect to ability to identify, evaluate and discriminate between the respective strengths of the claims of such persons?
5. Is it likely that any disorder of mind such as delusions and hallucinations which would influence the deceased’s awareness of facts or reasoning and decision making ability specifically with regard to the above four capacities.
As with other capacities, the assessment of will-making capacity has task-specific elements as outlined by the four specific criteria for defining capacity, and situation-specific elements depending on the individual circumstances of the case. The job of the expert is to take both into consideration. While each of the criteria which define will-making capacity requires specific cognitive skills, the threshold of cognitive deficit which might preclude capacity will vary according to the complexity of the estate and the way it is disposed of in the will. The following paragraphs outline the skills specific to each of the criteria and their practical application to guide health care professionals in their assessment.
4. 9. 5. 3. Awareness and appreciation of the significance of the act of making a will
This concept is stored in long term memory or what is considered “crystallized” or “old”. It is therefore unlikely that such "old" knowledge is lost until very late stages of a dementing illness.
4. 9. 5. 4. Awareness of the nature and extent of the estate
Since Kerr v Badran, the standard for knowledge of estate has been lowered to “bear on existing circumstances in modern life” where older people living today may well be aware that they own substantial shareholdings or real estate but not have an accurate understanding of the value or addresses of those assets. Some ten years ago this approximation of assets was advocated by American experts in the field who suggested that a testator understand in a “general way” the extent of property and its form, for example, cash, bonds, real estate, and “not necessary exact dollar figure in mind as to net worth but in general way should know whether has substantial amount or very little”. 
Notwithstanding the lowering of the required legal standard, the requisite cognitive skills will depend on situation-specific factors about the nature of the estate. If the estate is simple and little has changed over the years, for example, ownership of the family home plus one longstanding real estate investment, the will-maker can rely on often-preserved crystallised, long term memory. Thus, knowledge of assets may be retained well into the course of established dementia. Difficulties arise when there have been recent changes in real estate or shareholdings, for example, sales or gifts of real estate to family members, during the course of dementia. Early deficits in short–term memory, seen particularly in Alzheimer’s disease, may cause recent significant changes in assets to be forgotten when the will-maker gives instructions as to how their estate is to be distributed under their will.
Other functions which may be important to knowledge and distribution of estate include “calculia”, which is the ability to calculate and manipulate numbers, particularly if more than simple distribution of assets is involved. In Grynberg v Muller; Estate of Bilfeld, a wealthy testator was described by the solicitor who took instructions as “having difficulty with ‘how many zeros’ ” to be included in the gift to one of her beneficiaries. The solicitor also said he had to explain to explain to his client “what $150,000 was vis a vis zeros”. In another case a will-maker made a complex fractional distribution of her estate and changed those fractions when she made new wills. Windeyer J regarded the change of fractions as significant and noted that “the changes between the 1990 and 1993 wills are quite difficult to comprehend” and criticized the solicitor for drafting the will in this way.
4. 9. 5. 4. Awareness of those who might reasonably have been thought to have a claim on the deceased’s testamentary bounty
This criterion relies mostly on long-term memory which is usually retained well into the course of dementia. Problems arise when important potential beneficiaries, for example siblings of the will-maker die during the course of the dementia and the will-maker is unable to recall this. Again, situation-specific issues can make the task easy or difficult for a will-maker with dementia. Clearly the task of remembering who are the proper objects of one’s bounty is easier for a will-maker with dementia who has only one living relative or consistent beneficiary compared with a will-maker with dementia who has consistently divided their estate among a substantial number of beneficiaries.
4. 9. 5. 5. Capacity with respect to ability to identify, evaluate and discriminate between the respective strengths of the claims of such persons
Most wills are challenged on the basis of the will-maker’s capacity to identify, evaluate and discriminate between the respective strengths of the claims of their potential beneficiaries. This is perhaps the most complex task for the will-maker, particularly since Read v Carmody. An approach to the assessment of this crucial aspect of capacity is based on the examination of the following pieces of evidence:
1. The history of disposal or the will-making pattern. This is because previous wills may demonstrate an enduring and stable pattern of bequests and reflect views held by the will-maker prior to any significant deterioration in their mental state. This history may also reflect a person's “highest order preferences”. When assessing this aspect of will-making capacity, the expert should reflect on the original Banks v Goodfellow concept: Is this a disposal which, if the mind had been sound, would not have been made? Suspicion as to incapacity is aroused when a will-maker revokes prior wills and executes entirely different dispositions during a period of mental enfeeblement. Posener and Jacoby emphasise the fundamental importance of the will-maker being aware that their new will revokes their previous will and the need for the will-maker to be aware of the differences between the old will and the new will and to be able to explain the rationale for the changes. 
2. The terms of the will. This is because an inference of capacity may be derived from the will itself. Where the will is inofficious, that is where no provision, or an apparently inadequate or unfair provision, has been made for those who ought to be the objects of the will-maker’s bounty then fuller and clearer evidence of capacity is required.
3. The will-maker’s appraisal of their potential heirs. As was discussed in Chapter 2, many of the neuropsychological deficits typically associated with common forms of dementia, with or without complicating paranoid ideation, may render a person with dementia unable to appraise their past and present relationships. The findings of the association between family conflict and dementia discussed in Chapter 2 suggest a need to obtain very careful histories of family relationships when making assessments of capacity to execute a will. The rationale behind changes in such documents should be carefully scrutinised, particularly if there are changes in an established pattern of trusting or favouring certain family members. Thus, to ensure ill-feeling towards family members is not contaminated by dementia, in situations involving complex and conflictual issues amongst potential beneficiaries, the will-maker should show an awareness of these issues and provide the rationale for the disposition, or as is most often the case, the change in the disposition.
4. 9. 5. 6. Disorder of mind such as delusions and hallucinations
As originally outlined in Banks v Goodfellow, psychotic symptoms are only relevant to the will-making process if they impact on the act of disposition. Probably the best example of the impact of relevant delusions is the previously discussed case of Timbury v Coffee in which an alcoholic will-maker suffered delusions which caused him to believe his wife was unfaithful. These psychotic symptoms influenced testamentary dispositions which were held invalid.
That was a fairly clear-cut case but sometimes the role of the expert in clarifying the significance of abnormal ideas is more complex than that. First, the line between unreasonable beliefs and delusional beliefs associated with psychotic thinking is sometimes hard to define. Delusions and non-delusional beliefs are best conceptualised as a spectrum rather than a dichotomous phenomenon. A person may hold “over-valued ideas” which are unreasonable and sustained beliefs maintained with less than delusional intensity but potentially capable of poisoning affections if pervasive and persistent. Second, while delusions are usually false beliefs (and can often be diagnosed as such by their very implausibility), they are not invariably so. Rather their hallmark is that they are held on inadequate grounds; that is the belief is not arrived at through normal processes of logical thinking. This is important because one cannot always rely on the bizarreness or lack of veracity of a belief to establish its pathological nature. For example, a will-maker may accuse his wife, with whom he is in business, of theft, sabotage or sexual liaisons, but it is only the basis upon which he arrived at these beliefs that will distinguish whether or not they are pathological.
In recent judgments judges have downplayed the role of expert witnesses in court proceedings relating to will-making capacity, particularly the role of those expert witnesses who have never seen the will-maker. In Revie v Druitt, Windeyer J noted:
As I have pointed out quite recently in Kerr v Badran, lay evidence of the activities, conversations, family circumstances and relationships of the deceased and evidence from doctors, often general practitioners who were treating doctors during the lifetime of the deceased, usually is of far more value than reports of expert specialist medical practitioners who have never seen the deceased.
Young J commented on Kerr v Badran in the Australian Law Journal in the following terms; "The clear message [from Kerr v Badran] is that often presenting such psychiatric evidence is a waste of time and money". A more detailed discussion of the cases on this matter is found in 4. 9. 1 above.
Ferguson and others examined the key influences on the judgment and found that the judge explicitly placed most weight on the lay evidence. They noted that 37% of the references made by the judge about aspects of the aphasic will-maker’s communication were to family members’ evidence, 23 % to the solicitor’s evidence, 20% to the general practitioner’s evidence and 8.6% to the evidence of the psychiatrist and neuropsychologist.  The authors noted that the judge “explicitly placed most weight on lay accounts, making use of expert opinions only to check if any reconsideration was required”. The authors concluded that this attested to the “high social validity of detailed eye-witness accounts”. 
It is beyond the scope of this book to discuss the detailed law relating to expert witnesses and the admissibility of their evidence. However, as Freckelton has pointed out, “there is a begrudged dependency by the courts and tribunals in respect of expert opinions. The role of expert report writers and witnesses is fundamental to the resolution of many forms of civil litigation”. In New South Wales in particular the judges are encouraging the court appointment of witnesses and communication between the expert witnesses for the different parties in a court matter.
In each State and Territory the Supreme Court may grant leave to any person to apply to the Court for it to make, alter or revoke a will for any adult and, except for Western Australia, any person under 18 years of age who lacks capacity to make their own will. The Court must approve the specific terms of the will to be made or of the alterations to be made to the existing will.
In New South Wales, before the Supreme Court will authorise a will, it must be satisfied that the applicant for leave is an appropriate person to make the application and that adequate steps have been taken to allow representation of all persons with a legitimate interest in the application including those who have reason to expect a gift or benefit from the estate of the person the application is about. Then the Court must be satisfied that:
1. there is reason to believe that the person the application is about is, or is reasonably likely to be, incapable of making a will,
2. the proposed will, alteration or revocation is, or is reasonably likely to be, one that would have been made by the person if they had testamentary capacity, and
3. it is or may be appropriate for the order to be made.
The Queensland, Tasmanian and Australian Capital Territory provisions are essentially the same as those of New South Wales. So too are the South Australian. There the Court may authorise the making, alteration or revocation of the will if it is satisfied that the proposed will, alteration or revocation would accurately reflect the likely intentions of the person if they had testamentary capacity. In Victoria, there is a further variation on the wording used. Before the Supreme Court of Victoria may authorise a statutory will, or revoke an existing will, it must be satisfied that the proposed will or revocation reflects “what the intentions of the person would be likely to be, or what the intentions of the person might reasonably be expected to be, if he or she had testamentary capacity”.
In Western Australia there is also a variation in the language used. The Supreme Court must refuse the application unless it is satisfied as to the statutory criteria, including that the suggested will, alteration or revocation “is one which could be made by the person concerned” if they had capacity.
In the Northern Territory, the Supreme Court “must refuse to grant leave to make an application” unless the proposed will or alteration or revocation of a will is, or might be, one that would have been made by the proposed testator” if he or she had [will-making] capacity.
Since February 2008 a plenary guardian or a plenary administrator has been able to apply to the Supreme Court of Western Australia for an order to make a will for the person they are the guardian of or whose estate they administer. It is likely that a Supreme Court elsewhere in Australia would consider that an appointed guardian, enduring guardian, an attorney under an enduring power of attorney or an appointed administrator or financial manager was an appropriate person to make such an application, unless there was some other reason to exclude them in a particular case.
As noted earlier in this chapter, the South Australian provisions about statutory wills have been use to have the South Australian Supreme Court revoke a will on the grounds that a person who had lost will-making capacity would not want a will she made benefiting a man who took advantage of her when she was under his influence to remain unrevoked.
The first New South Wales case to deal with statutory wills, Application of J. R. Fenwick and Re Charles, involved an application about a 60 year old man with serious acquired brain injury and an 11 year boy who suffered severe and irreversible brain damage when he was four months old. Palmer J, who heard these applications, used the occasion as an “opportunity to explore some of the principles which should guide the Court in applying these new statutory provisions”. He divided the cases that could arise under the legislation into three categories. First, “lost capacity cases” like the case of the 60 year old man who had made a will, but who could no longer change it or make a new one because if his acquired brain injury. Second were the “nil capacity cases” like that of the 11 year old boy. Third were the “pre-empted capacity” cases; those in which a person, still a minor and therefore lacking formal testamentary capacity, was old enough to form relationships and to express reasonable wishes about property before losing testamentary capacity. Palmer J gave as an example, a 17 year old person who suffered severe and permanent brain injury as a result of a motor vehicle accident and who was subsequently awarded large damages.
After discussing the background to the legislation, he went on to state that in relation to the provision in the Succession Act 2006 (NSW), “the proposed will, alteration or revocation is, or is reasonably likely to be, one that would have been made by the person if they had testamentary capacity”:
[The] Court should start ‘with a clean slate’; it must interpret the words of the section in the light of the problems and difficulties which the legislation seeks to remedy, bearing in mind that legislation of this kind should receive a benevolent construction.
In relation to lost capacity cases, he suggested that the Court ought not to start with a presumed intention against intestacy. Rather, it must be satisfied by the evidence that it is “reasonably likely” – in the sense of “a fairly good chance” – that the person would have made a will at some time or other, had they not lost their will-making capacity.
In relation to the “nil capacity” cases Palmer J thought that the Court must start from a position that, if there were significant assets in the minor’s estate, the Court should authorise some kind of statutory will unless it was satisfied that what would occur on intestacy would provide adequately for all the reasonable claims on the estate.
Palmer J granted the application to authorise the proposed codicil, thus altering Mr Fenwick’s will. He also granted the application to authorise the proposed will for the 11 year old boy thus making a will for him.
The circumstances in which statutory wills are used and some of the relevant case law is set out elsewhere. In the United Kingdom, court authorised or statutory wills are now made under the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (UK). That Act provides that an act done, or decision made, under it for or on behalf of a person who lacks capacity must be done, or made, in their best interests. The judges making statutory wills under that Act consider that it replaced the notion of substituted judgment, which is reflected in the Australian legislation, with an objective test as to what was would be in the best interests of the person who had lost capacity.
Over a century later, Banks v Goodfellow remains the formal authority in will-making capacity, because of its flowery language and because it was ahead of its time in terms of its insight into the various components of will-making capacity and respect for the notion that the mere presence of mental disorder does not, of itself, preclude capacity. However, will-makers have changed, as has our understanding of the kind of conditions which impair a person’s ability to make a valid will. Will-makers are more likely to be older and their wills are less likely to be challenged on the basis of delusions. They are more likely to be challanged on the basis of deficits in the cognitive skills of memory, judgment and reasoning crucial to the will-making process. There is a myriad of ways in which deficits in such skills may impact on the will–making process and this is further complicated by the situation specific aspects of each individual case. The law has also evolved to some extent with an acknowledgement of the increasing complexity of estates and the corresponding lowering of the threshold for knowledge of assets. Further, some acknowledgement has been given to the fact that comprehending and appreciating the claims to which one ought to give effect requires more than just knowing who one’s beneficiaries are, but rather weighing and discriminating between potential claims.
Clearly, the determination of capacity is far more complex today than reflected in the traditional Banks v Goodfellow criteria. As stated by Shulman et al:
It is time for the medical and legal professions to move to new level in dealing with an important growing societal concern – the fundamental right to make a Will in a competent frame of mind.
 Roman G.C., Managing Vascular Dementia, London, Science Press, 2003, p1 .
 Shulman,K, Cohen, C and Hull, I, “Psychiatric issues in retrospective challenges of testamentary capacity” Int J Geriatr Psychiatry, (2005) 20: 63-69, 64.
 Banks v Goodfellow (1870) LR 5 QB 549.
 Hood J restated the test in Banks v Goodfellow in his own words in In the Will of Wilson  VicLawRp 84; (1897) 23 VLR 197, 199-200. Knox CJ and Starke J treated the test as settled law in Bailey v Bailey  HCA 21; (1924 34 CLR 558, 566. The views of two current members of the High Court of Australia, Gleeson CJ and Kirby J are found in Re Estate of Griffith; Easter v Griffith (1995) 217 ALR 284, 290 and 295. See also Shorten v Shorten  NSWCA 73 ; Theophanous v Gillespie  QSC 177 ; Martin v Fletcher  WASC 59 ; Kerr v Bardan  NSWSC 735  and Trust Co of Australia Daulizio  VSC 358 . Banks v Goodfellow was followed in Ontario in Murphy v Lamphier (1914) 31 OLR 287. For a long-standing US case, without the flowery language see, Cunningham v Stender 225 P. 2d 977 (1953).
 Banks v Goodfellow (1870) LR 5 QB 549, 565.
  NSWSC 735.
 Ibid. .
 Banks v Goodfellow (1870) LR 5 QB 549, 570.
 Ibid.pp. 570-571. For an application of this point in Australia see, Tipper v Moore  HCA 42; (1911) 13 CLR 248. For a more recent case in which views were held to be “not simply harsh, unfair or unjust … but passed into the realm of paranoid delusion”, see Grynberg v Muller; Estate of Bilfeld  NSWSC 532, .
 Ibid. p. 556.
7  HCA 13; (1942) 66 CLR 295.
 Re Estate of Griffith; Easter v Griffith (1995) 217 ALR 284, 290. See also Weschler v Du Maurier  NSWCA 13 and Di Cecco v Contini  VSC 211.
 Mount Isa Mines Ltd v Pusey  HCA 60; (1970) 125 CLR 383, 395.
  HCA 22; (1941) 66 CLR 277, 284. See also Re Estate of Griffith (1995) 217 ALR 284, 290-291.
 Shulman, Cohen and Hull,(2005) op. cit. (footnote 1), pp. 67-69.
 Key & Anor v Key & Ors  EWHC 408 (Ch) . Also reported as Re Key  EWHC 408;  1 WLR 2020.
 Note the effect of the approach in Badram v Kerr  NSWSC 735  on this requirement.
 Parker v Felgate  UKLawRpPro 41; (1883) LR 8 PD 171; Re Crooks (Estate); Ackerman v Brown (BC9403413) (unreported, Supreme Court of NSW, Young J, 14 December 1994); Perrins v Holland  EWCA Civ 840,  2 All ER 174.
 Perrins v Holland  EWCA Civ 840,  2 All ER 174.
 Ibid. .
 Ibid. .
 Jarman on Wills, London, Sweet and Maxwell, 8th ed., 1951, Vol. 3, 2073.
 Ibid., p. 2077. Rogers v Pittis (1822) 162 ER 12, 18.
  SASR 94.
 Ibid., 102.
 Pates v Craig and Public Trustee, Estate of Cole  NSWSC 87 -. Wills Probate and Administration Service (NSW), Butterworths (looseleaf) [10,019] and [13,041].
 Pates v Craig and Public Trustee, Estate of Cole  NSWSC 87 .
 Ibid., .
 Ibid., .
 (1870) LR 5 QB 549 and Pates v Craig and Public Trustee, Estate of Cole  NSWSC 87 .
 Pates v Craig and Public Trustee, Estate of Cole  NSWSC 87 .
 Re: Dr Athanasios Gouras  MPBV 10, .
 Pates v Craig and Public Trustee, Estate of Cole  NSWSC 87 .
 Ibid. .
 Ibid. .
 In re Simpson (1977) Sol Jo 224. Kerridge notes this as an English “golden rule” but also notes that it appears to have been applied in England only in cases in which the will-maker was obviously and severely incapacitated. See, Kerridge, R, “Willls made in Suspicious Circumstances: the Problem of the Vulnerable Testator” (2000) Cambridge L J 310, 312-313.
 Freisen and Holmberg v Freisen Estate (1985) 33 Man R (2d) 98.
 Ibid. 107.
 A Practical Guide to Solicitors: When a client’s capacity is in doubt. www.lawsociety.com.au, p 1.For an example of good practice see, Nichoson v Knaggs  VSC 64 - and for poor practice see the preparation of the December 2000 codicil and 2001 will in that case. See also Re Ellul dec,d; Ellul v Ellul  VSC 351 as an example of the steps that should be taken to ensure that a person whose will-making capacity is in doubt and who needs an interpreter to help them give instructions and to understand the contents of their will to make a valid will. For criticism of a solicitor for complicating the way in which the gifts to the beneficiaries was expresses and for just giving the will to the will-maker to read and not reading it aloud to them see, Robinson v Spratt  NSWSC 426,  and . See also Challen v Pitt  QSC 365 as an example of what happens when the final will of an elderly person, possibly with dementia, who has made a number of wills later in life, is challenged. In that case, the solicitor believed that the will-maker was elderly, physically disabled but mentally alert when she gave the instructions for and executed the will. The judge preferred the contemporaneous evidence of capacity which came from various sources to the retrospective diagnosis of the specialist and upheld the will finding no suspicious circumstances at the time of its execution.
 Nichoson v Knaggs  VSC 64, - and 
 (1955) 29 ALJ 179, 180, (No medium free citation)
 Nicholson v Knaggs  VSC 64, -.
 For examples of good and bad practise see, Nichoson v Knaggs  VSC 64. See also, Challen v Pitt  QSC 365.
 Key & Anor v Key & Ors  EWHC 408 (Ch) . Also reported as Re Key  EWHC 408;  1 WLR 2020.
 Ibid. .
 Ibid. .
 Re Estate of Griffith (1995) 217 ALR 284, 289-291(Gleeson CJ), 294-296 (Kirby P).
 Perpetual Trustee Co v Fairlie-Cunninghame (1993) 32 NSWLR 377. See also s. 23A Protected Estates Act 1983 (NSW).
 Re Estate of Bellew (unreported, Supreme Court of NSW, Windeyer J, 8 September 2005, BC200506913). For a US example see, In re Estate of Mayes 843 S. W.2d 418, 425-426 (1992).
 Ibid. For a recent case in which medical evidence before the NSW Guardianship Tribunal was held to be of little weight on the question of testamentary capacity see Revie v Druitt (unreported, Supreme Court of NSW, McLelland J, 13 August 1992, BC9201679), p. 4.
 Norris v Tuppen  VSC 228.  and .
 Re Full Board of the Guardianship and Administration Board  WASCA 268, , , - WASCA 268; , (2003) 27 WAR 475,.
 For a US authority see In re Estate of Mayes 843 S.W. 2d 418 (1992).
 S.56 of the Guardianship and Administration Act 1993 (SA)
 Board of the Guardianship and Administration Board  WASCA 268,  and  WASCA 268; , (2003) 27 WAR 475.
 Perpetual Trustee Co v Fairlie-Cunninghame (1993) 32 NSWLR 377.
 See 4. 9. 3. 1. 2 below.
Shaw v Crichton (unreported, Court of Appeal NSW, Powell J, 23 August 1995), in Wills Probate and Administration Service (NSW), Butterworths (looseleaf) [13,037].
 See 4. 9. 3 below.
 (1988) 14 NSWLR 698.
 Landers v Landers  HCA 74; (1914) 19 CLR 222.
 Ibid. 236.
  HCA 22; (1941) 66 CLR 277.
 Bull v Fulton  HCA 13; (1942) 66 CLR 295, 338.
  HCA 21; (1924) 34 CLR 558.
 Ibid., Knox CJ and Starke J, 560.
 Isaacs, Gavan Duffy and Rich JJ.
 Unreported, Supreme Court of NSW, McLelland J, 13 August 1992, (BC9201679).
 Re Brokenshire; Equity Trustees Co Ltd v Worts  VSC 183; (1998) 8 VR 659.
 Norris v Tuppen  VSC 228. A case in which probate of a will and codicils was refused on the grounds that the will-maker did not have capacity to make a will.
 Nichoson v Knaggs  VSC 64, .
 Ibid.  and .
 Ibid. -.
 Nichoson v Knaggs  VSC 64, .
 . Wills Probate and Administration Service (NSW) op. cit. .
 Bailey v Bailey  HCA 21; (1924) 34 CLR 558, 570-572. Re Hodges; Shorter v Rogers (1988) 14 NSWLR 698, 704-707.
 Bailey v Bailey  HCA 21; (1924) 34 CLR 558, 571.
 Shorten v Shorten  NSWSCA 73, .
 Re Estate of Griffith; Easter v Griffith (1995) 217 ALR 284, 289; Worth v Clasohm  HCA 67; (1952) 86 CLR 439. For an example of a will-maker who was the subject of an administration order in Queensland not meeting the test for testamentary capacity because of dementia see, Re will of Pill  QSC 447. For an example of a case applying the relevant principles but in which evidence pointing to a lack of testamentary capacity was not offset by evidence indicating that the will-maker had testamentary capacity at the time she made her last will see, Public Trustee (WA) v Churches of Christ Homes and Community Services Inc  WASC 289. For a case applying the test for capacity in which the evidence of a doctor raised a doubt about the capacity of the will-maker, but a doubt not substantial enough to preclude a finding of testamentary capacity see, Seale v Cross  WASC 237.
 Key & Anor v Key & Ors  EWHC 408 (Ch) . Also known as Re Key  EWHC 408;  1 WLR 2020.
 In the Estate of Fuld (dec’d)  P 675, 722.
 For a clear but ultimately unsuccessful attempt of “friends” to obtain a will from an elderly, moribund man see, Willmott v Mc Court  WASC 210.
 Tyrrell v Painton  UKLawRpPro 56;  P 151, 159-160.
 Ridge, P “Equitable undue influence and wills” (2004) 120 Law Quarterly Review 617,625. Her article deals with the detailed equitable rules about suspicious circumstances and notes that there is authority for the proposition that if the circumstances surrounding the execution of a will raise issues of undue influence and fraud, they cannot be alleged as suspicious circumstances (at 623). See also Kerridge, R “Wills made in suspicious circumstances: the problem of the vulnerable testator” (2000) 59 Cambridge Law Journal 310.
 Nock v Austin (1918) 25 CLR 519,  HCA 73. See also, Tyrrell v Painton  UKLawRpPro 56;  P 151 and Roos v Karpenkow (1998) 71 SASR 497,  SASC 7228..
 Nock v Austin  HCA 73; (1918) 25 CLR 519, 528.
 For cases in which suspicious circumstances were not dispelled and the will was declared invalid see, Tyrrell v Painton  UKLawRpPro 56;  P 151, Freisen and Holmberg v Freisen Estate (1985) 33 Man R (2d) 98, Slater v Chitrenky  4 WWR 421 and Michaud v Poirier  SCR 152.
 Tyrrell v Painton  UKLawRpPro 56;  P 151, 157. For an example of a woman with cognitive impairment characteristic of the pre-dementia stage of Alzheimer’s disease being found competent to make
 Wingrove v Wingrove  UKLawRpPro 46; (1885) 11 PD 81, 82. For an example of where there was held not to be proof of undue influence in this legal sense of the term see, Baudains v Richardson  UKLawRpAC 3;  AC 169.
 In the will of Wilson  VicLawRp 84; (1897) 23 VLR 197, 198-199.
 Hall v Hall (1868) LR 1 P & D 481, 482.
 Johnston v Johnston  QSC 075,  and , Winter v Crichton (1991) 23 NSWLR 116,121-122 and Bank of Credit and Commerce International v Aboody (1990) 1 QB 923, 967.
 Neat HoldingsPty Ltd v Karajan Holdings Pty Ltd  HCA 66, (1992) 110 ALR 449, 450 following Dixon J’s approach in Briginshaw v Briginshaw  HCA 34, (1938) 60 CLR 336, 362, namely that “it is enough that the affirmative of an allegation is made out to the reasonable satisfaction of the tribunal. But reasonable satisfaction is not a state of mind that is attained or established independently of the nature and consequence of the fact or facts to be proved. The seriousness of an allegation made, the inherent unlikelihood of an occurrence of a given description, or the gravity of the consequences flowing from a particular finding are considerations which must affect the answer to the question whether the issue has been proved to the reasonable satisfaction of the tribunal. In such matters "reasonable satisfaction" should not be produced by inexact proofs, indefinite testimony, or indirect inferences”.
 Green v Critchley  QSC 022 . See also Re Ellul dec’d; Ellul v Ellul  VSC 351.
 Boyse v Rossborough  EngR 299; (1857) 10 ER 1192, 1212; In the Will of Boyd (1872) VLR (I, E & M) 46, 48..
 Nichoson v Knaggs  VSC 64, .
 Ibid. .
 Ibid. .
 Winter v Crichton (1991) NSWLR 116, Powell J at 122 referring to Wingrove v Wingrove  UKLawRpPro 46; (1885) LR 11 PD 81, 82 and Boyse v Rossborough  EngR 299; (1857) 10 ER 1192, 1212
 Revie v Driutt  NSWSC 902, .
 NSW Law Reform Commission Report 47, Wills: Execution and Revocation , Sydney, Government Printer, 1986, 8.34.
 Ridge, op cit (footnote 72) 638 and Kerrige op cit (footnote 72).
 As an example see, Nichoson v Knaggs  VSC 64.
 The wills of older people: risk factors for undue influence.Peisah C, Finkel S, Shulman K, Melding P, Luxenberg J, Heinik J, Jacoby R, Reisberg B, Stoppe G, Barker A, Firmino H, Bennett H; International Psychogeriatric Association Task Force on Wills and Undue Influence.Int Psychogeriatr. 2009 Feb;21(1):7-15
 Shulman, K., Cohen, CA., Kirsh F.C., Hull, I.M., Champine, P.R. “Assessment of testamentary capacity and vulnerability to undue influence”, American Journal of Psychiatry (2007) 164(5) 725.
 Spar JE, Garb AS., “Assessing competency to make a will.” American Journal of Psychiatry, (1992) 149:169-174.
 Peisah C, Finkel S, Shulman K, Melding P, Luxenberg J, Heinik J, Jacoby R, Reisberg B, Stoppe G, Barker A, Firmino H, Bennett H; The wills of older people: risk factors for undue influence.International Psychogeriatric Association Task Force on Wills and Undue Influence.Int Psychogeriatr. 2009 Feb;21(1):7-15
 Succession Act 2009 (NSW) s 18; Succession Act 1981 (Qld) ss. 21-28; Wills Act 1936 (SA) s. 7; Wills Act 1997 (Vic) ss. 21-30; Wills Act 1970 (WA) Part XI and Wills Act 2000 (NT) ss. 19-26. See also Re Fenwick  NSWSC 530, “Court made wills for the Incapable” (2009) 83 ALJ 521 and Hockley, J, “Statutory wills in Australia: Wills for persons lacking capacity” (2006) 80 ALJ 68.
 Wills Act 2008 (Tas) ss. 29-38.
  SASC 142.
 Wills Act 1936 (SA) s. 7.
 Public Trustee v Phillips  SASC 142.
 Wills Act 2008 (Tas) s. 30(7). The Supreme Court’s will-making power is set out at ss. 21-28 of the Wills Act 2008 (Tas). See also 4. 10 below.
Wills Act 2008 (Tas) s. 37.
 Wills Act 2008 (Tas) s. 22(1).
 Scattini v Matters  QSC 459. See also Herbert v Grey  SASC 384 in which the expert evidence of a neuro-psychologist was not accepted.
 Shorten v Shorten  NSWSC 100 - and [114-119]. See also Shorten v Shorten  NSWCA 73 ,  and .
 Kerr v Badran  NSWSC 735.
 Ibid. . See also (2004) 78 ALJ 719-720. For a case in which the evidence of one expert witness was preferred over another see, Read v Carmody (unreported NSW Court of Appeal, Meagher, Powell and Stein JJA, 21 November 1998, BC9803374).
 For a case involving highly respected, but differing, expert witnesses whose evidence was given full credit, but nevertheless led the judge to state; “I cannot come to any final conclusion simply by reference to the medical evidence”, see Grynberg v Muller; Estate of Bilfeld  NSWSC 532 .
 As to treating the solicitor who took instructions and drafted the will as an independent witness see, Theophanous v Gillespie  QCA 117 - (a case involving a man dying of cancer); Martin v Fletcher WASC 59 - ( case involving a man with Lewy Body dementia described as a condition that can fluctuate significantly and involve hallucinations but a degree of memory impairment not as severe as with Alzheimers disease); Scattini v Matters  QSC 459.
 Seale v Cross  WASC 237 .
 Ibid. .
 Ibid. .
 Shulman, K., Cohen, CA., Kirsh F.C., Hull, I.M., Champine, P.R. Assessment of testamentary capacity and vulnerability to undue influence American Journal of Psychiatry 2007; 164(5): 722-727.
 Berg L. (1988) Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) Psychopharmacology Bulletin 24:637-639.
 Brodaty H, Howarth GC, Mant A, Kurrle SE. “General practice and dementia. A national survey of Australian GPs.” The Medical Journal of Australia (1994) 160(1):10-4; Lliffe et al, (2010) Evidence-based interventions in dementia: A pragmatic cluster-randomised trial of an educational intervention to promote earlier recognition and response to dementia in primary care (EVIDEM-ED).Trials 11:13; Valcour et al (2000) Archives Internal Medicine 160: 2964-8; Villars et al (2010) The primary care physician and Alzheimer’s disease: an international perspective The journal of nutrition health and ageing 14(2): 1-11 Implementing a Screening and Diagnosis Program for Dementia in Primary Care; Boustani M., et al (2005) J Gen Intern Med. 20(7): 572–577.
Sorensen L., Foldspang, A., Gulman, N & Munk-Jorgensen P. “Assessment of dementia in nursing home residents by nurses and assistants: criteria validity and determinants.” International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, (2001)16, 615-621.
 Shulman KI, Peisah C, Jacoby R, Heinik J, Finkel S. “Contemporaneous assessment of testamentary capacity”. Int Psychogeriatr. (2009) Jun; 21(3):433-9
 Shulman, Cohen and Hull, (2005) op. cit. (footnote 1), p. 67.
 Peisah, C (unpublished data)
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition. (DSM-IV), Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.
 Mendez MF, Cummings JL., Dementia: A Clinical Approach , Philadelphia, Butterworth Heinemann, (3rd ed) 2003.
 Kril Halliday G., “Alzheimer’s disease: its diagnosis and pathogenesis” Int Rev Neurobiology (2001) 48: 167-217.
 Roman GC. op.cit. p5.
 Ibid.,p 6
 McKeith I., “Dementia with Lewy Bodies: Clinical and pathological diagnosis.” (1998) Alzheimer’s Reports 1:83-87.
 Peisah, C and Brodaty, H, “Dementia and the will-making process: the role of the medical practitioner”, Med J Aust (1994) 161, 381, 382.
 Peisah, C., Brodaty, H., “The role of the GP in the management of Alzheimer’s disease”., Medicine Today (2004) 5: 16-25.
 American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition. (DSM-IV) 1994; Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association
 Shulman, K., Cohen, CA., Kirsh F.C., Hull, I.M., Champine, P.R. Assessment of testamentary capacity and vulnerability to undue influence, American Journal of Psychiatry 2007 164(5): 722-727. See also Contemporaneous assessment of testamentary capacity.Shulman KI, Peisah C, Jacoby R, Heinik J, Finkel S. Int Psychogeriatr. 2009 21(3):433-9
 Sprehe, D.J., Kerr, A.L. (1996) Use of legal terms in will contests: implications for psychiatrist. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law 24: 255-265.
  NSWSC 426, . For a case involving the loss of will-making capacity because of dementia and no evidence of it being a “good day” when one of the wills was made see, Herbert v Grey and Khorasane  SASC 384. For a US example of a person with mild Alzheimer’s Disease being held to have will-making capacity see, Estate of Harms 149 P. 2d 557 (2006) and for a person with depression and dementia see, Pyle v Sayers 39 S.W.3d 774 (2001).
 American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition. (DSM-IV), Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.
 Ferguson A, Worrall. L., McPhee J., Buskell, R., Armstrong, E, Togher L. “Case study -Testamentary capacity and aphasia: A descriptive case report with implications for clinical practice”, Aphasiology (2003) 17 (10) ,965-980.p 973.
 Helm-Estabrooks N, “Cognition and aphasia: a discussion and a study” Journal of Communication Disorders, (2002) 35: 171-186.
 Spar JE, Garb AS., “Assessing competency to make a will.” American Journal of Psychiatry, (1992) 149:169-174.
 Liptzin, B. Peisah C., Shulman K. Finkel S. for the International Psychogeriatric Association Task Force on Wills and Testamentary Capacity (2010) Testamentary capacity and delirium International Psychogeriatrics, 22:6, 950–956
 For a case in which delirium was an issue, see Grynberg v Mulle; Estate of Bilfeld  NSWSC 532.
 Shulman, Cohen and Hull, (2005) op. cit. (footnote 1), p. 67.
 Shulman KI, Hull I, Cohen CA. “Testamentary capacity and suicide: an overview of legal and psychiatric issues”, Int J Law Psychiatry, (2003) 26 :403-415 at pp 406-407.
 Shulman, K., Cohen, CA., Kirsh F.C., Hull, I.M., Champine, P.R. Assessment of testamentary capacity and vulnerability to undue influence American Journal of Psychiatry (2007); 164(5): 722-727.
  HCA 22; (1941) 66 CLR 277. See also Landers v Landers  HCA 74; (1914) 19 CLR 222 and Re Pommerehnke’s Estate (1979) 16 A. R. 442.
  VicLawRp 124; (1892) 18 VLR 715, 717.
 Ferner RE., “Drugs and testamentary capacity”, Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine, (1997) 4: 185-187.
 International Psychogeriatric Association (IPA) Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) Educational Pack 2002 International Psychogeriatric Association.
 Re Hodges; Shorter v Hodges (1988) 14 NSWLR 689. See 4. 9. 3. 6 above.
 Shulman KI, Hull I, Cohen CA. (2003) op.cit. (footnote 124), p. 406.
 Re Estate of Griffith; Easter v Griffith (1995) 217 ALR 284.
 Ibid. Gleeson CJ and Handley JA; Kirby P in dissent.
 Idid. 292
 Ibid. 293.
 For a US statement of the insane delusion test see, Breeden v Stone 922 P.2d 1167 (2006) and for a US example of an insane delusion leading to the setting aside of a will see, Miami Rescue Mission Inc v Roberts 943 So. 2d 274 (2006). For a cautionary tale about a person disinherited for putting the will-maker in a nursing home see, Dougherty v Rubenstein 914 A. 2d 184 (2007). The will-maker was held not to be suffering from an insane delusion. For another cautionary tale see, In the Estate of Diaz 524 S.E.2d 219 (1999) in which a woman disinherited her children who had caused her to be committed involuntarily to a mental hospital after she refused to seek treatment. The codicil to her will was upheld, despite her depression and cancer.
 Contemporaneous assessment of testamentary capacity.Shulman KI, Peisah C, Jacoby R, Heinik J, Finkel S. Int Psychogeriatr. 2009 Jun;21(3):433-9
 Pates v Craig and Public Trustee, Estate of Cole  NSWSC 87 .
 Perrins v Holland  EWCA Civ 840  EWCA Civ 840; ,  2 All ER 174.
 Shulman KI, Peisah C, Jacoby R, Heinik J, Finkel S. Contemporaneous assessment of testamentary capacity. Int Psychogeriatr. 2009 Jun;21(3):433-9
 Shulman, K., Cohen, CA., Kirsh F.C., Hull, I.M., Champine, P.R. Assessment of testamentary capacity and vulnerability to undue influence American Journal of Psychiatry 2007; 164(5): 722-727.
 Freedman, M., Stuss, D.T., and Gordon, M., (1991) Assessment of competency: the role of neurobehavioural deficits. Ann Int Med, 115, 203-208.
 Shulman, Cohen and Hull, (2005) op. cit. (footnote 1), p. 68
 Shulman, K., Cohen, CA., Kirsh F.C., Hull, I.M., Champine, P.R. Assessment of testamentary capacity and vulnerability to undue influence American Journal of Psychiatry 2007; 164(5): p725.
 (1870) LR 5 QB 549, 565.
 Shulman, Cohen and Hull, (2005) op. cit. (footnote 1), pp. 67-68.
  NSWSC 735, .
 (Unreported, NSW Court of Appeal, Meagher, Powell and Stein JJA, 23 July 1998) BC9803374.
 Ibid. p 4.
 Bennett, H.P., and Hallen, P., “Dementia, cognition and testamentary capacity.”, Brain Impairment, (2004) 5: 69-70.
 Shulman, Cohen and Hull, (2005) op. cit,(footnote 1), p. 64.
  NSWSC 735.
 Sprehe, D.J., Kerr, A.L. (1996) Use of legal terms in will contests: implications for psychiatrist. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law 24: 255-265. For some US cases taking this approach see, Estate of Romero 126 P. 3d 228 (2005) and Will of Khazaneh 834 N.Y.S. 2d 616 (2006).
  NSWSC 532, . As to a reference to the will-maker’s “dyscalculia”, see .
 Robinson v Spratt  NSWSC 426, , [40 and .
 (Unreported, NSW Court of Appeal, Meagher, Powell and Stein JJA, 23 July 1998) BC9803374.
 Peisah, C. (2005) Reflections on changes in defining testamentary capacity International Psychogeriatrics 17 (4): 709-712.
 Davis, J.K. (2002) The concept of precedent autonomy Bioethics 2002; 16:114-133.
 Bailey v Bailey  HCA 21; (1924) 34 CLR 558, 571.
 Posener HD, Jacoby R (2002) Testamentary capacity. In Psychiatry in the Elderly 3rd Ed Jacoby R, Oppenheimer C (Ed) Oxford University Press: Oxford: 932-940. p
 Brown v M’Enroe (1890) 11 NSWR Eq 134, 138.
 Shulman,K, Cohen, C and Hull, I,(2005) op.cit, (footnote 1), p 68.
  HCA 22; (1941) 66 CLR 277.
  NSWSC 735 .
  NSWSC 902 .
 “Wills: Capacity – Assessment” (2004) 78 ALJ 720, 721.
 Ferguson A, Worrall. L., McPhee J., Buskell, R., Armstrong, E, Togher L. “Case study -Testamentary capacity and aphasia: A descriptive case report with implications for clinical practice”, Aphasiology (2003) 17 (10) ,965-980.p 973.
 Ibid. p 976
 Ibid. p 975
 Freckelton, I, “Doctors and Forensic Expertise” in Freckelton, I and Petersen, K, Disputes and Dilemmas in Health Law, Sydney, The Ferderation Press, 2006, 406. Freckelton’s chapter deals with the law relating to expert witnesses and the current debate about the role of expert witnesses in the justice system.
 Succession Act 2006 (NSW) ss 18 and 19; Succession Act 1981 (Qld) ss 21 and 22; Wills Act 1936 (SA) s 7; Wills Act 2008 (Tas) ss 22 and 23; Wills Act 1997 (Vic) s 21 (s 21(1) effectively allows for the alteration of a will by the Supreme court ; Wills Act 1970 (WA) s 40 and s 41 effectively requires leave of the Court; Wills Act 1968 (ACT) s 16A; Wills Act (NT) ss 19 and 20.
 Succession Act 1981 (Qld) ss 21-28. As to the matters the Supreme Court must consider, see s 24 of the Act. Wills Act 2008 (Tas) s 21-28, s 24 in particular. Wills Act 1968 (ACT) s 16E(b). See generally ss 16A-16I.
 Wills Act 1936 (SA) s 7. For an example of an application for an order to make a statutory will see, Hoffman v Waters  SASC 273and Brown v Brown  SASC 345.
 Wills Act 1997 (Vic) s 26(b). See ss 21-30 generally. For some examples see, Boulton v Sanders  VSCA 112, (2004) 9 VR 495, State Trustees Ltd v Hayden  VSC 98 and State Trustees Limited v Do and Nguyen  VSC 45.
 Wills Act 1970 (WA) s 42(b). See ss 39-47 generally.
 Wills Act (NT) s 21(b).
 Guardianship and Administration Act 1990 (WA) s 111A.
 Public Trustee v Phillips  SASC 142. See 4. 8.
  NSWSC 530.
 Ibid. .
 Ibid. .
 Ibid. . See Succession Act 2006 (NSW) s 22(b).
 Application of J. R. Fenwick and Re Charles  NSWSC 530 .
 Ibid. .
 Ibid. .
 Ibid. .
 Hockley, J, “Statutory wills in Australia: Wills for persons lacking capacity” (2006) ALJ 68. For more recent cases, see not only Application of J. R. Fenwick and Re Charles  NSWSC 530, but also, AB CB  NSWSC 680; Re Estate of Crawley  NSWSC 618; Rak v Rak  SASC 288; Brown v Brown  SASC 345; Deecke v Deecke  QSC 65; AB v CB and others  NSWSC 680 and Payne v Smyth as Litigation Guardian for Welk  QSC 45.
 Mental Capacity Act 2005 (UK) s 1(5).
 See for example Re P (Statutory Will)  EXHC 163 (Ch) and VAC v JAD  EWHC 2159 (Ch) also cited as Re D  1 All ER 859.
 Shulman et al, (2005) op cit. , p68.