No, a “will contest” is not what happens when you and your friend bet on who can refrain from something for the longest period of time. In the legal realm, a “will contest” refers to the proceedings that occur when someone has passed and there is a question about whether the will being offered for admission to probate is the true and correct will of the decedent.
Will contests are rarely pleasant affairs, especially where a decedent’s will purportedly leaves nothing from the estate to a close friend or family member. Will contests can also derail the probate process and drag out the process of settling a decedent’s estate for months or years after the estate should have been closed.
Overview of the Ohio Probate Process
To understand the impact of will contests, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the probate process itself. When someone dies and that person had created a will prior to his or her death (called dying “testate”), that will is presented to a court for admission as part of a probate proceeding. Probate can be thought of as a court-supervised proceeding wherein the court ensures that the law and the lawful wishes of the decedent are carried out in settling the decedent’s affairs. Early on in this process, if there is a will, it will be presented to the court for admission. Heirs and others who may have an interest in the decedent’s estate have an opportunity to contestthe admission of the will. They may do so if, for example, they believe:
- The will being offered is not the true will of the decedent or not the most current will that the decedent made;
- The will was created at a time when the decedent did not have capacity; that is, he or she did not understand what he or she was doing or how he or she was dividing his or her estate through the will; and/or
- The testator (the person who created the will for the benefit of his or her estate) was under coercion or was deceived by another person at the time the will was made.
Will Contests Must Commence Quickly After the Will is Offered for Probate
When a will is offered for admission to probate, all of the heirs and others who may have a benefit or claim to the estate of the decedent are notified of the will’s existence and are provided with a copy of the will. Once the will is accepted into probate, individuals with legal standing to do so only have a few months’ time to file an appropriate contest to the will. Once that time period passes, it is nearly impossible to come back later and contest the will.
In contesting a will, the person who wishes to contest a will must provide notice to all other heirs and identified parties to give them an opportunity to respond to the contest’s allegations. A court will permit a will to be admitted into probate if the will is in proper form and if it appears the testator was of sound mind and free from coercion at the time he or she made his or her will – even if the provisions of the will are not necessarily approved of by the heirs.
Will Contests in Ohio Require Experienced Legal Assistance
Whether you are wanting to contest a loved one’s will or you are defending against an action initiated by someone else, having an attorney who is intimately familiar with the probate process is essential to successfully resolving the contest. Dawes Legal, LLC has the experience you seek: contact our office at (614) 733-9999 and set up your initial consultation to learn how we can help you and your family through a will contest.