Can I Contest a Will in Ohio?

By Beverly Bird

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.

Qualified Persons

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.

Time Limits

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.

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Grounds

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You may also have grounds if you can prove that the will is a fake or a forgery, or that the will submitted to probate was revoked.

Procedure

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.

Restrictions

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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How to Contest a Last Will & Testament in Arizona
 

References

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How to Contest Wills in Tennessee

A will contest can fracture relationships and involve significant attorney fees. However, if you are contesting a will with good reason, obtaining the inheritance which should be rightfully yours is enough of a reason to proceed -- with caution. If you succeed in the will contest, and the invalidated will was a second or subsequent will, then the earlier will -- if valid -- will be enforced. If there was no other will, Tennessee’s intestate laws, which apply in the event that a person dies without a will, designate the estate distribution.

What Is the Statute of Limitations on Will Contests?

As a child, relative or heir of a deceased person, you may be concerned that the will of the decedent was fraudulently executed. The signature may appear wrong, the decedent may have been suffering from dementia at the time of the signing of the will, or the will may have left a substantial sum to a paid caregiver such that you feel the will was signed under duress or intimidation. Under these circumstances, you may question the validity of the will in court by filing a will contest action. The time limit to file a will contest varies from state to state.

Contesting a Will in Kansas

In Kansas, only an heir or beneficiary may contest a will. An heir is a relative who would be entitled to an inheritance if a will does not exist or is rendered invalid, such as a surviving spouse or children of the deceased. A beneficiary is someone designated in a will to receive property or funds. The probate court will allow a hearing challenging a will and evaluate testimony from at least two witnesses, either in person, by affidavit or by deposition.

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