Contesting a will is a difficult process, because the person whose wishes it is supposed to express is no longer available to clarify anything that might be up for debate or interpretation. There are, however, certain situations that may lead you to question a will and its contents, and if you meet certain criteria, you may be able to legally do so.
Who can contest a will
First and foremost, you must have a vested interest in the will. Essentially, this means you are either named as a beneficiary in the document, or you believe that you would have been named, but a will does not actually exist. Secondly, you are limited in what grounds you use to contest the will. You cannot formally contest a will just because you are displeased by what is left to you, but you may be able to do so if:
The document was not executed properly
To be considered valid in Ohio, a will must be either handwritten or typed, and it also must be signed in the company of two or more independent witnesses. If there were no witnesses, or not enough witnesses, present at the signing of the will, it may be deemed legally invalid.
The will’s author was mentally incapacitated
For a will to be recognized in the eyes of the law, its author had to be of sound mind at the time it was signed. If you try to contest a will’s contents because you believe a loved one was confused or otherwise mentally incapacitated at the time of the document’s signing, you may need to secure a physician’s statement or medical records to back up your assertion.
Another valid reason for contesting a will might be if you believe fraud occurred during its creation or signing. For example, maybe your loved one was coerced into signing what they thought was an entirely separate document, such as a contract of some sort.
The author was subject to undue influence
You may, too, be able to contest a will if you believe its author was subject to undue influence, and that the contents of the will do not truly express the free will and wishes of its author. Proving undue influence can be difficult, and it may involve furnishing proof of a confidential relationship between the will’s author and the believed influencer. It may also require proving mental incapacitation on the part of the testator.
If you are considering contesting a will for a reason that falls into one of these four categories, you may want to contact an attorney to help assess the strength of your case.