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The death of a loved one is a distressing experience for anyone in the Dayton area. However, if your loved one left a will that you feel should not be followed, you may need to take legal action. Keep in mind that you cannot challenge a will just because you do not like what it says. Your will contest must be based on one of four grounds for challenging a will.

State law was not followed

Every state, Ohio included, has rules regarding the legal execution of a will. For example, state law may dictate how many witnesses must be present at the signing of the will. If a will was executed in a way that violated state law, it may be deemed invalid.

Lack of testamentary capacity

There is some truth to the common adage that a person must be of “sound mind and body” when executing a will. Legally, a person must have testamentary capacity to execute a will. This is simply a fancy way of saying that the testator (the person whose will it is) understands the extend and value of their estate as well as who their natural heirs would be. The testator must also have the ability to understand the legal effect of executing the will.

Undue influence

As we age, our physical and mental health may decline. We may rely on others to help us with our daily tasks and care. Sometimes these people or other trusted individuals try to influence a testator into leaving some or all of their estate to them. Such “undue influence” exists when the testator is under so much pressure that they no longer have the free will to do what they want with their estate, and instead involuntarily follow the desires of the influencer.

Fraud

Fraud exists when a person signs a document that they are told is one thing, when in actuality it is a will that they otherwise would not have signed. This means the will was procured by fraud and thus it may be considered invalid.

Contesting a will is not necessarily easy

Challenging a will is generally an uphill battle. The will is considered the last voice of the testator who, being dead, can no longer speak to the circumstances surrounding the execution of the will. However, it is not impossible to challenge a will if the right evidence exists to support the grounds on which the will is contested. That being said, because will contests are complex and this post does not contain legal advice and cannot guarantee any specific outcome in a will contest, those in Dayton who want to challenge a will may want to seek professional guidance before proceeding.