In most states, you can challenge, or contest, a will if you have “standing,” meaning a financial stake in the will, and “grounds,” meaning a reason supported by law. In Ohio, however, the rules are a little more complicated, depending on who filed the will with the court. If you feel that you have reason to challenge a will entered for probate in Ohio, consult with an attorney to make sure you meet all the requirements for filing a contest.
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You must have some financial interest in the estate of the deceased to file a will contest in Ohio, such as a direct heir who would have received something if the deceased had passed away without a will, but was not mentioned in the will. Another example is if the deceased was your parent and all his other children received a certain portion of the estate, but your share was significantly less.
Once a will is accepted into probate in Ohio, you have only three months to contest it. The only exception is if you suffered a disability during this time period and the disability prevented you from acting. Then you have three more months to contest the will after you regain your ability to do so.
You can contest a will in Ohio if the testator was not of sound mind when she made it, if there was some procedural error in creating it or if the testator succumbed to outside influence from another beneficiary. You may also have grounds if you can prove that the will is a fake or a forgery, or that the will submitted to probate was revoked.
To contest a will in Ohio, you must file a civil action lawsuit with the probate court in the county where the will is being probated. You must notify all other interested parties of the proceeding, including all beneficiaries and heirs, the executor and Ohio’s attorney general. You have the right to demand a jury trial, but so do the other interested parties. The court will presume the will is valid and fair, so as the person contesting it, you have the burden of proof to convince the court that it is not. You may call and question any witnesses who can support your case.
Ohio allows a testator, the person who wrote the will, to submit it to the court herself before her death. If this is the case, then you cannot contest the will on grounds of its procedural validity because the court has already accepted it as valid. It can only be contested if you feel that you were unfairly left out of the will or bequeathed a less than proportionate share. The exception is if the testator ever removed the will from the court’s possession for some reason, then resubmitted it.
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