Sometimes when you read a person’s will, it can be a pleasant surprise. You may discover that your aunt, who lived a simple life, had secretly built a multimillion-dollar property portfolio. Or that the elderly gentlemen you mowed the lawn for left you some money. However, often the surprise is a nasty shock. Many an expectant beneficiary has discovered their parents have excluded them from a will or given them much less than they hoped.
While most wills pass through probate without challenge, sometimes you may feel it is necessary to contest one. You can only do this for specific reasons, and not everyone can do so. If you wish to mount a challenge to a will, you need to be either:
- Named in the will.
- Named in a previous version of the will.
- An heir who would inherit if there were no will.
You cannot contest the will because you do not like what it says. You need to challenge the validity of the document. To mount a successful challenge, you need to prove one of the following:
- The person did not make the changes of their own free will: There are many ways to influence people; some are subtle, some not so much. Older adults can be especially vulnerable to this. They may have a mental illness, be cut off from regular contact with family and rely heavily on one person to care for them.
- The person did not have the mental capacity to understand their actions: Challenging someone’s testamentary capacity is commonly used when the person had dementia. You will need medical reports and doctor’s statements to prove your point.
- The person did not sign it correctly: If the required number of people did not witness it or if it contains errors, you may be able to contest it.
Before challenging a will, it is vital to check if it contains a no-contest clause. These are usually upheld in Ohio and penalize anyone who files a challenge to the will. You should also be aware of the possible consequences to relationships with other beneficiaries.