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Someone is considered incompetent when they are unable to manage their own affairs due to mental incapacity (such as deterioration or psychosis) or sometimes due to a serious physical disability. Incompetence can be used to appoint a guardian or conservator to manage the affairs of the incapacitated person.

In criminal law, someone is incompetent when they are unable to comprehend the essence of a trial; and therefore, are ineligible to testify or stand trial. In these circumstances, the incapacitated defendant is typically institutionalized, or otherwise remanded to treatment, until they recover their mental capacity and are ready to stand trial.

Incompetent is also a broad term for evidence that is not acceptable in a court of law. It could be irrelevant (not substantial enough) or immaterial (does not matter to the issues at hand).

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team