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Will contests are a delicate legal issue. They come at an emotional time for a family, and they can be fraught with personal conflict. However, will contests are an important legal tool for ensuring that a relative’s final wishes are appropriately carried out in the manner that they would have wanted. There are a variety of different legal issues that can arise with a will that could interfere with the proper distribution of the estate. These legal issues form the grounds for a will contest, and it is important for people dealing with the loss of a loved one to be able to recognize these common grounds in case there are any potential issues with the will. The most common reasons for contesting a will include problems with the decedent’s mental capacity, undue influence, fraud, and improper formalities.
The Decedent’s Mental Capacity
Ohio law requires some minimal mental capacity in order to make a valid will. Unfortunately, senility is a common problem as people age, so wills crafted later in life may not be valid if the testator, the person making the will, did not have enough mental acuity to do so. The test for such acuity sets a low bar, which can make this sort of will contest difficult. Generally, a person must simply understand what property they own and how they want that property to be distributed, along with an understanding of who will get the property with and without the will.
Undue Influence
Another very common ground for contesting a will’s validity is undue influence. This ground occurs when there is a third party who stands in some special relationship with the testator and applies coercive pressure to get them to sign a will that they would not have absent that same influence. This is a common problem with caretakers for elderly patients who suddenly end up as the beneficiaries of the testator’s will.
Fraud is a less common ground for will contest, but one that can still occur from time to time. As the name suggests, contesting a will for fraud means that the person making the contest must show that there was some misrepresentation to the testator that affected the will. Generally, this arises in one of two ways. First, a person could lie to the testator about some external circumstance to get them to change the will, such as telling them that one of their relatives died. Second, a person could lie about the actual will itself, such as substituting a different document for the testator to sign.
Improper Formalities
A will can also be contested based on the formalities. Ohio law requires that a person making a will follow certain formalities such as making sure that the will is written rather than oral, and that the will is properly witnessed by two other people. Failure to follow these formalities may result in the invalidation of a will.
Wills are important legal documents that ensure a person’s final wishes are respected. If you have recently lost a loved one and think there may be an issue with the validity of the will that interferes with those wishes, contact an Akron probate lawyer at The Law Office Of John C. Grundy today.