There is nothing quite like a person’s death to reveal the true status of the decedent’s family relationships. A family that appears to be at odds with one another at other times can come together, find that their differences were only skin deep, and become a closer-knit family unit as a result. Conversely, a family that looks tight may develop difficulties after reading the contents of the decedent’s will.
For some surviving family members of a decedent, learning that they have been disinherited – that is, written out of a person’s will so that they receive nothing from the decedent’s estate – can be a terrible, emotionally-taxing event. The circumstances surrounding the signing of the decedent’s will are crucial in determining what recourse you may have.
No Prohibition Against Disinheritance in Ohio
When a person dies intestate– that is, without having written and executed a will – then the laws of Ohio tell the court how the decedent’s property is to be divided up. These statutes will typically give the property to the decedent’s close family members. However (and generally speaking), there is nothing that would prevent a person of sound mind from leaving instructions in a will to divide his or her property to whomever he or she chooses. For example, if a decedent dies with no surviving spouse but he or she has three children, Ohio’s statutes would typically require that the decedent’s estate be divided equally amongst the three surviving children. If the decedent chooses to write a will while he or she is still alive, however, he or she can leave all of his or her estate to just one child and nothing to the other two. Or the decedent may provide that all of his or her estate go to a charity or his or her alma mater and nothing be provided to his or her children.
Challenging the Mindset of the Decedent
“Of sound mind” are the operative words in this situation: if the decedent was not of sound mind at the time he or she wrote his or her will disinheriting his or her family, then the will may not be seen as valid by the court and the court may choose to treat the decedent’s estate as if he or she died without having created a will. This means that if there is evidence that the decedent was suffering from some mental impairment or condition that prevented him or her from understanding what he or she was doing or accurately perceiving facts, then the will may be invalidated. For instance, if a decedent created a will disinheriting his or her children because a mental condition made him or her believe that his or her children had already died when in fact they did not, then the will may be able to be invalidated.
Being “of sound mind” also requires that the will have been created without any undue duress or coercion being applied to the decedent at the time of the writing of the will. A will written under the threat of physical or financial harm will not be upheld. Similarly, if the decedent was promised something in return for disinheriting this person or that person, the will may be held to be invalid.
Disinherited? Dawes Legal, LLC May Be Able to Help
While a person is free to disinherit his or her children or others through a will, Dawes Legal, LLC can help determine if a decedent’s will that does so was truly the product of a sound mind and a person free from duress or undue influence. Contact Dawes Legal, LLC at (614) 733-9999 and let us evaluate what legal courses of action you may have in the event that you have been disinherited.