Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way … Dispute Over Testamentary Capacity

21 Oct 2016

Julian Walter 110x137

by Dr Julian Walter

Male doctor speaks encouragingly to older man

A GP may hold the key to a legal dispute over a $12 million dollar will. An elderly patient originally left her estate to the Cancer Council, but later changed her will. Whether she had sufficient testamentary capacity to make such a decision is now in the hands of the Victorian Supreme Court.

Importance of proper capacity assessment
This case is a good reminder of the unforeseen consequences that can arise when a doctor provides formal assessment of a patient’s capacity (particularly testamentary capacity), especially where large amounts of money are involved. What might have been a brief assessment can morph into a lengthy stint as a court witness in somebody else’s dispute.

Both prospective and retrospective assessment of capacity can have serious ramifications for patients, doctors and third parties. Ensuring you understand the limits of what you are being asked to provide is essential. So is knowing when to seek advice.

For those of us who don’t perform such examinations regularly and whose skills might be rusty, the following articles on capacity assessment and testamentary capacity assessment are a useful refresher.  

Access to a deceased patient’s records
The case is also a good example of the complexities involved in requests for access to a deceased patient’s records.

This blog contains general information only. We recommend you contact your medical defence organisation or insurer when you require specific advice in relation to medico-legal matters.



Doctors Let's Talk: Get Yourself A Fricking GP

Get yourself a fricking GP stat! is a conversation with Dr Lam, 2019 RACGP National General Practitioner of the Year, rural GP and GP Anesthetics trainee, that explores the importance of finding your own GP as a Junior Doctor.


25 Oct 2022

Systematic efforts to reduce harms due to prescribed opioids – webinar recording

Efforts are underway across the healthcare system to reduce harms caused by pharmaceutical opioids. This 43-min recording of a live webinar, delivered 11 March 2021, is an opportunity for prescribers to check, and potentially improve, their contribution to these endeavours. Hear from an expert panel about recent opioid reforms by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and changes to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. 

Diplomacy in a hierarchy: tips for approaching a difficult conversation

Have you found yourself wondering how to broach a tough topic of conversation? It can be challenging to effectively navigate a disagreement with a co-worker, especially if they're 'above' you; however, it's vital for positive team dynamics and safe patient care. In this recording of a live webinar you'll have the opportunity to learn from colleagues' experiences around difficult discussions and hear from a diverse panel moderated by Dr Kiely Kim (medico-legal adviser and general practitioner). Recorded live on 2 September 2020.