Being mentally incompetent deals with the inability to perform a duty or understand it. Illiteracy is not a type of mental incompetency since you are not limited mentally. Rather you lack the knowledge to be labeled literate. Mental incompetency may be related to various disorders and illnesses. An example of a disorder which may be deemed excusable by contract law could be one in which an individual suffers extreme ADD or has totally lost touch with their environment.
According to contract law, if the nature, purpose, and consequences are not fully understood due to the lack of mental capacity, the contract is voidable on the discretion of the mentally incompetent individual. Contract laws tend to define mental incompetency as lacking the capacity needed to undergo a legal process.
By a court of law, one is deemed mentally incompetent when diagnosed as mentally ill, mentally retarded, senile, or suffering from some other disability that prevents them from managing their own affairs. A guardian is appointed in order to aid the mentally incompetent in carryout out their personal and legal affairs.
There are three steps which lead to the determination of labeling an individual as mentally incompetent and excusing them from their duties to contract laws. The first is the motion for a competency hearing. The second is a psychiatric or psychological evaluation. Third, there is a competency hearing.
Most motions need to be filed prior to the sentencing. In this case, it would mirror that which occurs with the motion for a competency hearing. These hearings tend be granted "if there is a reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent" (18 U.S.C.A. § 4241 (a)).
Once that is complete, the court appoints a psychiatrist or a psychologist to evaluate the individual who has been subjected to mental incompetency. The appointed individual implements various psychological tests and investigations in order to deem a person competent or incompetent.
Following these two steps, the competency hearing determines the mental capacity of the individual to understand their obligations within a contract. Once all is said and done, either the contract is enforced or the individual is excused from his obligations, and is admitted into a hospital for a period of four months to evaluate whether or not the individual may be able to reacquire his or her competency.
Contract law also deems individuals who, when entering a contract while intoxicated, as being able to void a contract due to the lack of awareness regarding the nature, purpose, and consequences of the contract. If legally incompetent, a marriage contract may also be annulled based upon insanity, legal age, mental incompetence, and a preexisting marriage.
Regarding contract law, one of the most delicate contracts to validate are wills. When a will is being drafted and goes through the court process of probate, deciphering between the intent of the will and what appears on it may involve complications. The complications may arise from individuals who persuaded the testator to write something within the will or a beneficiary party acting upon behalf of the testator himself. This is why the mental competency of the testator needs to be determined when the will is being enforced.