As you are making arrangements for a deceased loved one, you are probably going to begin searching for a will, particularly if you know your loved one created a will before he or she passed. But what happens if you cannot find the original will or cannot even find a copy? In the blog below, Dawes Legal, LLC, addresses the issue of lost or missing wills in Ohio.
Exhausting Your Search
Before you declare a will lost or missing, make sure you have exhausted your search. You have likely looked in all the obvious places, but try expanding your search to cover every possible location. Contact your loved one’s attorney or past attorneys to see if they know anything about the will, check into the possibility of a safe deposit box, and ask close friends, business associates, or relatives. The work you put in now can save you work later.
Lost or Missing Original
If you have searched everywhere possible and have not been able to locate the original will but have a copy, you can still initiate probate proceedings in Ohio. Previously, under Ohio law, if you were not able to locate the original, the courts assumed the creator destroyed it with the intention of revoking it. This is no longer the case. If you cannot locate the original, you can probate the copy after providing a satisfactory explanation to the court about the absence of the original. There cannot be any person capable of establishing that the original was revoked.
Lost or Missing Copies
If you have not been able to locate even a copy of the will, your task will be more difficult. You will need to submit evidence and testimony about the existence of the will and its contents, including testimony by the people who witnessed the will. It will be up to the court whether you have met the burden of proof with regard to the will.
If the court is satisfied with the evidence you have presented, under either of these scenarios, the court will probate the will as if you had presented an original. If you have not satisfactorily made your case, however, your loved one’s estate will proceed as if he or she died without a will, and his or her estate will be divided according to Ohio’s laws on “intestacy succession.” Intestacy laws in the state make provisions for surviving spouses and children when someone dies without a will.
If you are trying to locate a will or are working toward probating a loved one’s estate, contact the attorneys at Dawes Legal, LLC. We will help you understand Ohio’s probate procedures and will work through your options if you have been unable to locate your loved one’s will. You can reach our Columbus office today for a consultation by calling (614) 733-9999.