A dispute over a loved one's will generally begins long before the family member dies. Often, old feuds and long-held grudges surface in the emotion of someone's death and the disclosure of the contents of the will. In many cases, the beneficiaries settle out of court or those who bring the dispute decide it is not worth the time and money to go through probate litigation. However, if enough is at stake, interested parties may take the matter as far as it can go to obtain their goals.
Contesting a will is a right reserved for only certain people related to the deceased. These people are known as heirs-at-law because the law entitles them to an inheritance if the deceased left no will. In Ohio and most other states, this includes the surviving spouse and children but may extend to grandchildren and others in some circumstances.
In addition to limiting the heirs who can contest the will, the law restricts the reasons why one can bring a probate dispute to court. For example, the contestant must believe the will is not valid for one of several reasons, including that the deceased did not have the mental capacity to understand what he or she was doing in signing the will. Other reasons why a will may be invalid include if it was signed under duress, was fraudulent or does not have the proper witness signatures.
Contesting a will is a complex and often stressful undertaking, but it may be worth it to someone who stands to gain or lose a great deal. To mount a successful probate litigation, one will have the burden to prove the terms of the will should not be upheld. An experienced probate attorney can prove advantageous to anyone in Ohio seeking to contest a loved one's will.