Wilson v. Lane
614 S.E.2d 88 (2005)

Facts:
After Executrix Katherine Lane offered Jewel Jones Greer’s 1997 last will and testament for probate, Floyd Wilson filed a caveat, challenging Greer’s testamentary capacity.

History:
A Jasper County Superior Court jury found that Greer lacked testamentary capacity at the time she executed her will, but the trial court granted Lane’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

Issue:
Did Greer have the testamentary capacity to make the will?

Holding:
Yes. Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • ‘A person is mentally capable to make a will if she has sufficient intellect to enable her to have a decided and rational desire as to the disposition of her property.’
  • Here, at most, there was evidence that Greer was an eccentric woman whose mental health declined towards the end of her life:
    • Greer had an irrational fear of flooding in her house;
    • She had trouble dressing and bathing herself; and
    • She unnecessarily called the fire department to report a non-existent fire.
  • However, the court noted, ‘eccentric habits and absurd beliefs do not establish testamentary incapacity.’

Rule: Evidence that a testator is eccentric, aged, and acts irrationally at times, by itself, does not establish that testator lacked testamentary capacity to make decided, rational disposition of property.

This case was an example of the majority rule, where the burden of persuasion is placed upon the party contesting the will to show the lack testamentary capacity. Compare to In re Estate of Washburn.