How to Contest a Will in Ohio

Contesting a will is a legal process that involves challenging the validity or terms of a testamentary document. In Ohio, several grounds may warrant contesting a will—but it’s rarely as easy as popular culture makes it seem.

Who can contest a will?

In Ohio, only individuals with a direct and tangible interest in the probate proceedings have the standing to contest a will. These interested parties typically include heirs, beneficiaries or those designated in a previous version of the will. Intestate heirs (individuals entitled to inherit under state intestacy laws) typically also have the right to contest. Creditors with unpaid claims against the estate may contest a will if its provisions impact their ability to collect debts. It's important to note that casual acquaintances or distant relatives without a direct interest generally lack standing to challenge a will.

When can you contest a will?

There are several circumstances which allow individuals to contest another person’s will:

  • Lack of capacity: Lack of capacity is the assertion that the person making the will lacked understanding at the time of its creation. This refers to the mental competency of the testator to understand the nature and consequences of creating a will. If it can be demonstrated that the testator was not of sound mind due to factors such as dementia, insanity or being under the influence of substances, the will may be contested.
  • Undue influence: Undue influence is the argument that the testator was coerced or manipulated by another individual, overriding their free will in the creation of the will. If there is evidence to suggest that an influential person exerted control over the testator's decisions, leading to the terms of the will not reflecting the testator's true intentions, the will may be contested.
  • Fraud or forgery: Contesting a will on these grounds involves demonstrating that deceptive practices were employed in the creation or execution of the will. This could include situations where the testator was misled into signing the will or instances where the signature on the will is not authentic. Proving fraud or forgery is a serious allegation and requires substantial evidence.
  • Improper execution: Ohio has specific legal requirements for the proper execution of a will. If these requirements are not met, the will may be contested on the grounds of improper execution.

Contesting a will is not a casual process and should not be undertaken lightly. Furthermore, it's important to act promptly, as there are time limitations for contesting a will in Ohio. Once the will enters probate, interested parties generally have a limited period within which they can initiate the process.

If you believe you have grounds to contest a will, call James Bart Leonardi, LLC today.

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