How does the law define “being of sound mind”?

February 17, 2015 3:53 pm

You have probably seen TV shows, films and indeed possibly heard wills read out that refer to the term “being of sound mind.” But what does this term actually mean and how do people define it? What initially may seem like a simple question can be complicated by the fact that what some people define as “sound” or “rational” may be different from others.

 

Basic definition

 

The basic definition of “being of sound mind” is as follows “An understanding of one’s actions and a reasonable knowledge of their family, possessions and their surroundings.”

 

So in other words if someone is writing their will and they are “of sound mind” then they know what they are doing (leaving money, property etc in their will), they know who they are giving it to (in this definition they say family but equally this could apply to friends, charities etc), they know what they are giving and can perceive the world around them and are able to make a rational judgement.

 

Non compos mentis

 

Another term you may have heard of is “non compos mentis”- this is the opposite – not of sound mind. In this instance the person needs to appoint someone with power of attorney in order to ensure that their property, finances and so forth are properly looked after.

 

Therefore if you feel that someone was not of sound mind when they wrote their will you could potentially dispute the will. Equally this could also apply to someone committing a crime- if they do not understand what they are doing then you cannot punish them in the same way as someone who has the rational capacity to understand what they did and why they did it.

 

Where this becomes difficult is defining that rationality. Someone being a tad eccentric is not necessarily incapable of running their affairs and likewise many people can put on a brave face and not ask for help when they need it if they are struggling with health issues.

 

Getting advice

 

If you are concerned that a loved one is not of sound mind or you want to be given lasting power of attorney it helps to get the right legal advice (indeed many people choose to give a legal representative power of attorney as they tend to be more objective than a friend or family member given the same responsibilities).

 

We pride ourselves in being sympathetic and giving people the advice they need in order to make the right choice- this can be a very difficult and emotive issue, both for the people involved and anyone who has to look after their affairs. We can guide you through the process, ensuring that you are aware of what is going on at every stage.

 

For a free consultation with a legal expert and to find out more please contact us today.


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