Barnes v. Marshall
467 S.W.2d 70 (1971)

  • Marshall wrote a will and then died. The will left almost everything to some relatives and some charitable organizations, but only a few dollars to his one surviving daughter, Barnes.
  • Barnes challenged the will on the basis that Marshall was not of sound mind and did not have the requisite mental capacity when he executed the will.
    • Based on the testimony, Marshall was clearly crazy.
      • But, does being generally crazy mean that you lack testamentary capacity to execute a will?
  • The Trial Court agreed that Marshall was not of sound mind and invalidated the will. The beneficiaries of the will appealed.
    • The beneficiaries argued that Marshall wasn’t crazy, he just had, “peculiarities, eccentricities, and unusual moral views, which are not evidence of testamentary incapacity or an unsound mind.”
  • The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed.
  • In a dissent, it was argued that he understood what he was doing, since he specifically mentioned his heirs by name, and disposed of all of his possessions. He just chose to do it in a way that most people wouldn’t agree with.
  • The legal standard for testamentary capacity:
    • You must understand the objects of your bounty.
      • aka who should get your $$$.
    • You must understand the extent of your bounty.
      • aka how much $$$ you have to give.
    • You must understand the uniqueness of a will.
    • You must be able to interrelate these three facts.