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What Is Lucid Interval? (How This Affects Legal Decisions)

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If you or your loved one have recently suffered from a lucid interval, you’re probably wondering how this affects legal decisions made during this time.

Schmidt & Clark lawyers have dealt with countless lucid interval cases for over two decades. Today, we’ll explain what this is and how it affects the capacity to sign and testamentary capacity.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • A lucid interval is the period of time during which a mentally ill person regains vc.
  • Contracts signed during a lucid interval are seen as valid.
  • Several requirements must be met for a mentally ill person to have testamentary capacity.

What is Lucid Interval?

A nurse accommodating a patient in hospital bed

Lucid interval is a legal doctrine according to which a person who has a mental illness or a neurological condition can have periods in which their ability to reason is preserved.

“Lucid interval refers to a brief period during which an insane person regains sanity that is sufficient to regain the legal capacity to contract and to act on his/her own behalf. Lucid interval also refers to the period during which a person has enough mental capacity to understand the concept of marriage and the duties and obligation it imposes.” USLegal 

During this period, a person is temporarily restored to legal sanity. They are considered to have enough intelligence and judgment to sign contracts and testaments and perform other legal acts.

The person's legal actions during this time are seen as valid and not disqualified by the disease.

There’s no need for a full mental recovery for a lucid interval to happen. If the person knows they are making a legally-binding action and understands what’s required of them, all decisions they make during this period are valid. Also, the person can’t claim insanity for acts done during a lucid interval.

Lucid Interval and Capacity to Sign

Woman signing a contract while in lying in hospital bed

Supreme Court of Florida determined the test for incompetency in 1891 [1]. They established that if a person fully understood the nature of the transaction, the document is valid.

It means that if a mentally ill person has a period during which they regain their abilities, they have the full capacity to sign. 

If they change their mind, or someone wants to challenge the validity of this document, the court will check:

  • The medical and physical history of the signee
  • Medical and psychiatric opinions
  • Signee’s conduct during the time of signing the document
  • Other circumstances surrounding the signing, such as if the signee was under the influence, fairness, and complexity of the transaction.

Testamentary Capacity

A woman being examined by doctor with interviewAccording to the Raimi v. Furlong case from 1997, the test for testamentary capacity is lower compared to the test for capacity to sign a contract [2].

The court established that an insane person can execute a valid will if they have a lucid interval.

This stands even if the testator is frequently intoxicated, under the influence of narcotics, or has a failing memory.

For a mentally ill person to have testamentary capacity, five requirements have to be met:

  • The signee must understand what they are engaged in.
  • The signee must understand the effects of the will.
  • The signee must understand the extent of their property and holdings.
  • The signee must understand to whom the property will pass on.
  • The signee must understand all of the previous points at once and be able to understand how they are connected.

For a testamentary capacity to be valid during a lucid interval, the signee mustn’t be under the influence of another party.

As long as all of the above conditions are met, and the person signing the will has a lucid interval, they have the capacity to execute the document, and the will is seen as valid.

Sometimes, the will can be contested. In this case, the testamentary capacity has to be proven during the probate process.

The party who wants to uphold the will is called the will proponent, and they must prove that the testator had the mental capacity at the time of signing.

Note: If you’re in a position where testamentary capacity is challenged, you should hire an estate planning attorney to protect your interests.

FAQ

How long can a lucid interval last?

A lucid interval can last from a few hours to a few days.

What is a lucid interval in insanity?

A lucid interval in insanity is the time between two periods of insanity. During this time, a person is completely mentally restored.

Hire an Experienced Attorneys for a Lucid Interval Case

A lucid interval is a period in which a mentally ill person or a person suffering from a medical condition fully uses their mental capacities and can show sound judgment.

According to the law, all contracts, including testamentary capacity, signed during this time are seen as valid.

If you think your loved one has been taken advantage of during a time they didn’t have the full use of their mental capacities, you should hire an attorney.

Schmidt & Clark lawyers have experience dealing with lucid intervals. We’ll provide legal advice, explain if you have sufficient grounds for a case, and the next steps to take.

Contact us for a free consultation today.


References:

1.https://www.floridabar.org/the-florida-bar-journal/mental-illness-and-the-right-to-contract/ 

2.https://casetext.com/case/raimi-v-furlong 

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