Testamentary Capacity Expert California

As a leader in the field of study on financial elder abuse and fraud, Dr. Stacey Wood is uniquely positioned to provide testamentary capacity expertise to your next case. Licensed in Washington State and California, Dr. Wood possesses vast experience on testamentary capacity cases including contested wills. See Dr. Wood’s curriculum vitae.

Board Certified in Geropsychology


Years of experience


Expert Analysis


Trials and Depositions

Testamentary Capacity in California

In California, the legal standard for creating a will has two components: the testator must be 18 years of age and of “sound mind,” which means possessing testamentary capacity. Attorneys and judges in California are increasingly turning to forensic neuropsychologists with an expertise in decisional capacity to aid in testamentary capacity cases. A respected neuropsychologist can help your legal team navigate what mental competency means and provide valuable assistance in crafting your case.

Dr. Wood’s Testamentary Capacity Experience

Dr. Stacey Wood is a leader in the study of decisional capacity and assessing mental capacity in a legal setting. Dr. Wood has worked on well over 200 APS and fraud cases in her work as a consultant in Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino Counties. It’s a credit to her reputation in the field of testamentary capacity that she served as Lead Editor on “Assessment of Older Adults with Diminished Capacity: A Handbook for Psychologists,” by the American Psychological Association and American Bar Association.

Contact a proven testamentary capacity expert for your next case.

Why choose Dr. Wood for testamentary capacity cases?

"Wrote the Book" on Capacity

Dr. Wood served as Lead Editor and a major contributor on “Assessment of Older Adults with Diminished Capacity: A Handbook for Lawyers,” a joint project by the American Psychological Association and American Bar Association.


A True Partner for your Firm

Dr. Wood has been commended by previous clients for her ability to assist in the entire process, such as what records to review, possible legal strategies, clear detailed reports and for being a clear and comfortable communicator in court.

Uniquely Qualified to Help you Win

Dr. Wood’s main area of focus in the field of psychology is capacity in elderly adults, which is significant in the realm of elder law. This experience makes her acutely knowledgeable of the issues involved in your case and in a position to positively impact your preparation like none other.

Interested in working with Dr. Wood on a testamentary capacity case?

Featured Information on Testamentary Capacity

Importance of Numeracy as a Risk Factor for Elder Financial Exploitation in a Community Sample

Development of measures to asses four types of elder mistreatment.

National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) University of Southern California

The NCEA is the national authority on elder abuse and provides up-to-date, pertinent and value resources, education, and information on elder abuse and neglect.

Probate Conservatorship

Probate conservatorship proceedings in California, a judge appoints a conservator to care for another adult who cannot care for him/herself or his/her finances.

Elder Abuse

Dr. Stacey Wood is one of the nation’s leading experts on financial elder abuse and fraud.
Dr. Stacey Wood

Dr. Stacey Wood

Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology, Scripps College. Board certified in geropsychology.

Curriculum Vitae

My scholarly interests are in the areas of neuropsychology and decision-making from a lifespan development perspective. I am interested in how changes in the brain, emotion, and motivation interact across the lifespan to influence how we make decisions. I am especially interested in taking theoretical work and applying it to everyday types of decisions. One such application is in the area of assessing decision-making capacity for the courts. An understanding of cognitive mechanisms that may underlie specific types of legal decisions (i.e. testamentary, financial) can help us to design better tools and be more effective as witnesses.

Contact Dr. Wood Today

Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology; Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Washington State and CA.

Phone: (909) 706-2764
Email: swood@scrippscollege.edu
Curriculum Vitae: View Here
Connect with Dr. Wood on LinkedIn

Testamentary Capacity: Extended Information

The term testamentary capacity describes the legal and mental capacity of a person to create a valid will. The idea behind testamentary capacity, which was established as a result of the 1870 case of Banks v. Goodfellow, is that the person making the will needs to have sound mind and judgment, which will allow him or her to understand what is at stake when creating a will, the purpose of creating a will, and what property he or she will include in his or her will.

Continue reading for more specific information on testamentary capacity and how Dr. Wood’s expertise on testamentary capacity can help with your case.

Legal Definition of Testamentary Capacity in California

In California, anyone who is at least 18 years of age and of sound mind has the capacity to make a will. “Sound mind” means having testamentary capacity, which the law describes as “mentally competent” in California. Under the legal dictionary, to be considered a mentally competent testator in California, you must be able to do all of the following:

(1) Understand the nature of the testamentary act.

(2) Understand and recollect the nature and situation of their property.

(3) Understand who their close relatives are and how they will be affected by the will.

(4) The testator must not suffer from a mental disorder.

Contesting a Will

When a will has already been created by a person with a mental disorder or someone who lacks testamentary capacity, another party can challenge the will to have it set aside. To do this, they must prove that the person lacked the mental capacity to create the will at the time that it was made. The party that is challenging the will is usually someone who will get more of the testator’s property through the process of intestate succession. In this case, having the will of the testator set aside would be more beneficial to this party than having the original will intact.

Since the mental capacity that is required to make a will is significantly lower than the standard of mental capacity to perform other acts that require capacity, such as creating a contract, the contesting party has the burden to prove with clear and convincing evidence that the capacity of the testator has tangibly affected the will by making its distribution different from what would have otherwise occurred. With this evidence, the contesting party can dispute the validity of the will, and in the majority of cases, the invalidation of a will due to insufficient mental competence will deem the entire will void.

Undue Influence

Additionally, a will may be contested and subsequently set aside if it has been determined that it was created as a result of undue influence. Undue influence is a legal term that describes what happens when a person persuades another individual’s decisions due to their relationship with the other party. In many cases, one party holds a position of power over the other for any number of reasons, including emotional or familial ties, which will often be the case when creating a will. In the case of undue influence, the individual who holds more power will use this to their advantage, coercing them into making decisions that may not necessarily be in their best interest. These circumstances are an example of financial elder abuse California under elder law. When contesting a will, if it is determined that the terms of the will have been impacted by undue influence, it may be voided.

Similar to lack of testamentary capacity, both ideas behind contesting a will involve influence of the testator’s intent of creating a will, which may have an effect on how he or she would have otherwise chosen to distribute his or her property. In many cases, an individual’s lack of capacity can make them more vulnerable to undue influence, so both aspects of elder law tend to go hand-in-hand.

If a will is being contested, a neuropsychology expert like Dr. Stacey Wood can examine all parties and help determine whether undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity, or a combination of both, had an impact on the creation of a will. For any additional questions on testamentary capacity, contact Dr. Stacey Wood today.

Contact Information

Dr. Stacey Wood, Ph.D.
Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology; Licensed Clinical Psychologist, CA.

Phone: (909) 706-2764
Email: swood@scrippscollege.edu
Connect with Dr. Wood on LinkedIn

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