When a loved one dies and the contents of their will are not what family members expected or hoped for, it’s possible to contest the will. Whether you’re contesting a will or fighting back against a will contest, you need to work with a Canton contested will lawyer if you hope to achieve the outcome you’re fighting for.
Slater & Zurz is a law firm in Canton, Ohio, that handles contested will cases. One of our experienced contested will lawyers can help you navigate the complex and often emotional process of contesting a will in Canton. To schedule a consultation, call Slater & Zurz today at (330)968-2547.
Contesting a will is a weighty legal situation. The outcome of a will contest can significantly alter the financial well-being of an estate’s heirs and beneficiaries. It can also significantly impact family relationships. A will contest can make emotions run high and may lead to family discord that lingers for many years to come.
The first step in initiating a will contest is to consult with an attorney for contested wills. Working with an attorney from the start ensures you don’t incur time, money, and family ill-will over a contest that is ultimately unsuccessful. An attorney will also greatly increase your chances of the contest being successful.
Contesting a will begins with establishing valid grounds. The guiding principle behind challenges to a will is the aim of respecting the deceased’s wishes. Attempts to contest a will that rest solely on dissatisfaction with how a benefactor allocated assets will not go far in court.
If a will contest is to be successful, it must rest on one of the legal reasons for contesting a will. Ultimately, every contested will involves a unique combination of grounds and supporting evidence. It takes a Canton contested will lawyer experienced in probate law to assess whether you have grounds for a contest.
Undue influence and elder abuse are two common reasons for contesting a will. In both of these cases, another person — usually a beneficiary — has coerced or manipulated the benefactor in order to influence a will’s contents.
As it relates to a will, undue influence refers to pressuring a benefactor into bequeathing assets in a way significantly different than they otherwise would have.
With elder abuse, a beneficiary might threaten the benefactor or use abusive tactics to coerce them into changing the terms of the will.
Proving undue influence or elder abuse can be a challenge. These arguments usually rest on circumstantial evidence. It takes a skilled lawyer for contested wills to build a persuasive argument that can convince a judge or jury of the allegations.
Lack of capacity is another valid reason for successfully contesting a will. In the state of Ohio, the law refers to this as a “lack of testamentary capacity.” The benefactor must meet four requirements to be deemed capable in Ohio:
- Understand they’re creating a will and its implications
- Be fully aware of the assets in the estate
- Know the names of benefactors and what assets they are assigned
- Know the members of their family
If a benefactor did not meet these four criteria when the will was created — due to age or a medical condition — you have valid grounds for contesting a will.
There are a number of legal issues that can make a will invalid.
Some legal issues have to do with the will’s creation, like if a will (or later modifications) were not properly witnessed.
Forgery is the act of illegally falsifying documents. If someone other than the benefactor created a will or altered the original will, it can be contested on the grounds of forgery.
Fraud is another valid reason to contest. In the context of will creation, fraud refers to intentionally misrepresenting to the benefactor key information that influences how assets are assigned. This can include lying about heirs or beneficiaries or deceiving them about legal issues related to their assets.
Revocation refers to the act of revoking a will. If the beneficiary created a will and then later altered or destroyed the will or created a new one, the previous will is no longer legally binding. As with any will contest, your contested will attorney must be able to offer proof in court that the benefactor revoked the will.
The final key reason you can successfully contest a will is if there are errors in the will. Will errors can include the will’s contents, such as if assets are not accounted for.
If a will’s executor did not follow the proper procedure once the probate process began, the will could be contested over a lack of due execution.
If you’d like advice on handling a will contest, Slater & Zurz can help. Call (330)968-2547 and speak with an experienced contested will lawyer in Canton today.
Standing is a legal concept that refers to having grounds to take legal action. It’s also a central concept when it comes to a contested will because only those with standing can legally contest a will.
If you’re contesting a will in Canton, Ohio, you’re subject to Ohio state laws on standing. First, you must have a financial stake in the will. This means that you stand to receive a smaller portion of the assets than you likely would if the contest is successful.
Assuming you have a financial stake in the will, only two groups of people can legally contest a will: those named in the will and those who stand to inherit according to intestate laws.
This means that if your name does not appear in the will, you can only contest if you are regarded as an heir. Legally, heirs are the relatives to whom an estate would naturally pass in the absence of a will.
In Ohio, intestate laws pass an estate in its entirety to a spouse. If there is no surviving spouse, it’s equally divided among children. If there are no children, it passes to the benefactor’s parents. If the benefactor’s parents are deceased, it passes to the next of kin, like aunts, uncles, or cousins.
If no heir can be located, the estate becomes the property of the state of Ohio.
Whether you have standing in a will contest is determined by your family structure and which family members survive the benefactor. If you are not related by blood or marriage to the benefactor, you can only contest a will if you have been named within it as a beneficiary.
Whether you’re contesting a will or fighting back against a will contest, success comes down to working with an experienced contested will attorney who knows how to successfully present your case.
Slater & Zurz are leaders in probate law matters in Canton, Ohio. We handle all manner of legal proceedings related to wills. Our team knows all the intricacies of probate law, and we specialize in will contests.
A Slater & Zurz attorney can quickly assess whether you have grounds for a contest and how to proceed to achieve your desired outcome.
Call us today at (330)968-2547, and we’ll arrange a consultation discussing your will contest and how to proceed.
Contesting a will is a matter of probate law. You’ll need to work with a probate lawyer to contest a will. Some lawyers handle all types of probate affairs, while others are specialized. It’s best to work specifically with a lawyer for contested wills.
Many probate lawyers work predominantly in one area, like estate planning. For the best chance of achieving your desired outcome, choose a contested will lawyer experienced in the legalities of a will contest.
Contesting a will begins with filing a petition in the Ohio probate court. Even if the will has not gone to probate yet, filing a petition will initiate probate proceedings.
The probate court might order that your fees be paid directly from the estate. However, you may also be held responsible for your own attorney fees if your contest lacks sufficient grounds.
The best way to avoid an unsuccessful contest and the ensuing fees is to work with a reputable Canton contested will lawyer who only takes on your case if you have sufficient standing, grounds, and evidence.
Before you take action on a will contest, it’s best to consult with our probate lawyer in Canton, who specializes in contested wills. Slater & Zurz can assess your situation and advise you on how to proceed with a will contest. Schedule a consultation with us today by calling (330)968-2547.