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Testamentary Incapacity, Undue Influence, and Insane Delusions
60 South Dakota Law Review 101 (2015)
  • Thomas E. Simmons
Testamentary incapacity, undue influence, and insane delusions are recurring doctrines in the context of an impaired, weakened, or confused individual leaving a will, the validity of which comes under question. In the case of In re Estate of Berg the South Dakota Supreme Court, in 2010, held that an individual possessed testamentary capacity even where he suffered a static lifelong delusion about the identity of his father and was unable to articulate an accurate estimate of his net worth. This article uses Berg as a means of framing the requirements of a valid Last Will and Testament along with the theories under which a will may be set aside, with special emphasis given to the doctrines of insane delusions and undue influence. The author offers an analysis of the holdings and outcome in Berg along with related cases and authority in context.  Berg the author concludes, was correctly decided, its reasoning squaring with longstanding deference towards the freedom of testamentary disposition, even for individuals with diminished capacity and mental delusions.
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Thomas E. Simmons, Testamentary Incapacity, Undue Influence, and Insane Delusions, 60 South Dakota Law Review 101 (2015).