Probate litigation can potentially help disinherited spouses

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Probate Litigation

Marriage generally means making a lifetime commitment, which some people insist on seeing through despite unhappiness. Most people divorce when they hold negative feelings toward a spouse for a long time, but not everyone feels comfortable ending a marriage due to their religion, culture or personal beliefs.

There are those who remain married despite feeling dissatisfied with their spouses. They may then try to take revenge by disinheriting their spouses in their estate plans. Someone who remained married for years could end up shocked and frightened when reviewing the will drafted by a recently-deceased spouse.

Some people review the documents only to discover that their spouse has left them nothing or assets of inconsequential value. As such, it is sometimes possible for a spouse disinherited in Ohio to initiate probate litigation seeking their elective share of their spouse’s estate.

What the law allows

In Ohio, spouses have a right to inherit from each other’s estates if they die without an estate plan. When there are children of the deceased spouse who aren’t children of the surviving spouse, the law has several rules for how much of the estate may go to the surviving spouse.

The surviving spouse receives the first $20,000 of the estate and either a half or a third of its remaining value depending on the parentage situation. If the surviving spouse is also a parent of one or more of the decedent’s children, then their share of the estate may increase to $60,000 plus a third of the remainder.

Those same rules can theoretically apply in a scenario where a spouse receives nothing or a disproportionately small share of the estate. If a will only grants a surviving spouse a used vehicle or other low-value resources, an Ohio spouse can potentially assert their right to an elective share of the estate. The probate courts can grant a surviving spouse more of an estate if the inheritance allocated to them in the will is less than what they might receive during intestate proceedings.

Contesting a will can be a challenging process, especially in a blended family situation where stepchildren may have intense emotions about this course of action. Disinherited or disappointed spouses may need to learn more about their rights to determine if going to court is a wise choice after a spouse’s death in Ohio, as every case is different.

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