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  • Writer's pictureKerry Slater

An Assessment of Capacity: Navigating the Legal Framework

Updated: Oct 13, 2023


In matters of importance, individuals must possess the mental capacity to make informed decisions. Whether it's creating a will (testamentary capacity) or any other significant choice, a capacity assessment is vital. This assessment ensures that individuals can grasp the implications of their decisions and have the mental faculties necessary to make sound choices. In legal matters, it is crucial to provide evidence specific to the appropriate legislation, thereby ensuring decisions align with the established legal framework. This blog delves into the intricacies of capacity assessments and explores the significance of the landmark case of Banks v. Goodfellow (1870) in this process.

Understanding Capacity Assessments:

Capacity assessments are conducted to determine an individual's ability to make decisions that impact their own lives. These decisions can range from managing financial affairs to making healthcare choices. The assessment process involves evaluating multiple aspects of the individual's mental faculties, including their ability to understand, retain, and weigh relevant information, as well as communicate their decisions coherently.

The Legal Framework for Capacity Assessments:

Capacity assessments should adhere to the specific legislation governing the jurisdiction in which they take place. This ensures that the assessment process aligns with legal standards and protects the rights and interests of the individual involved. In the case of testamentary capacity, where a person is evaluating their ability to create a valid will, the legal framework must be followed meticulously.

Banks v. Goodfellow (1870) and Its Relevance:

Banks v. Goodfellow is a landmark case in English law that has had a profound impact on capacity assessments, particularly in the context of testamentary capacity. In this case, the court set forth essential principles to be considered while determining whether an individual has the mental capacity to create a valid will. These principles have stood the test of time and are still applied in many jurisdictions today.

The case established four criteria that need to be addressed in a capacity assessment for a testamentary document:

  1. Understanding the nature of the act: The individual must comprehend the significance and purpose of creating a will.

  2. Understanding the extent of their property: They should be aware of the value and extent of their assets.

  3. Comprehending the claims to which they ought to give effect: The person should be aware of the potential beneficiaries and those they are excluding from their will.

  4. No delusion of the mind: The individual should not be suffering from a mental disorder that affects their judgment regarding the will's contents.

The Importance of Sufficient Evidence:

In any capacity assessment, providing sufficient evidence is paramount. The evidence should be tailored to the specific criteria laid out in the Banks v. Goodfellow case or any applicable legislation. Failing to provide adequate evidence could lead to the nullification of the assessment, potentially resulting in undesired outcomes.


Capacity assessments are vital in safeguarding an individual's autonomy and ensuring that they are making informed decisions. Whether it's testamentary capacity or any other significant decision, adhering to the appropriate legal framework is essential. The case of Banks v. Goodfellow (1870) has laid down foundational principles that continue to shape capacity assessments to this day. As legal professionals, it is our responsibility to approach capacity assessments diligently and provide thorough evidence to uphold the integrity of the assessment and protect the rights of those involved.

At Nellie Supports, we take pride in offering reliable and efficient services to help you navigate the complexities of mental capacity. Your loved one's well-being is our top priority, and we are dedicated to supporting you through every step of the process.

To find out more about our mental capacity assessment service and how we can assist you, please visit our website:

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