Will Contests

A will contest is a law suit in the probate court challenging the validity of a Will that has been admitted to probate.  If a will contest action is successful, the Will that was admitted to probate will be invalidated and treated as if it did not exist.  Therefore, the estate would be distributed consistent with the immediately preceding Will or, if there is no preceding Will, to the heirs as specified under Ohio Law.

Will contests must be filed in a very specific short time frame.  Also will contest actions must contain specific facts to support the law suit.  If the person bringing the will contest does not have sufficient facts to support the law suit, it is possible their case would be dismissed and if it is found that the law suit was frivolous, the court could award attorneys’ fees be paid by the unsuccessful litigant.

Jury trials are permitted in a will contest action or the parties could allow the case to be determined solely by the probate judge.

Concealment of Assets

Any person who is a beneficiary of an estate or trust can file an action with the probate court alleging concealment of assets.  This is a very serious allegation and this type of action are referred to as being “quasi-criminal”.  Under the Ohio Revised Code, if a fiduciary is found guilty of concealment, he/she can be removed from their position by the probate court and can be punished by the probate court.

Removal of Fiduciary

If a beneficiary of an estate or trust believes that the fiduciary is not properly administering the estate or trust, that beneficiary can file an action with the probate court asking the court to remove the fiduciary from their position.  Usually this would only be done if the fiduciary has committed a serious breach of their duties.  The court would look at whether the fiduciary has exercised a consistent failure to administer their duties effectively and then determine that removal of the fiduciary would be in the best interest of the beneficiaries.

Mediation

As an alternative, most probate courts have now instituted procedures for alternative dispute resolution.  Because many probate litigation matters are actually disputes among family members, there are other ways in which these disputes can be resolved without an expensive litigation.  Mediation through court-supervised programs has become increasingly common in Ohio’s probate courts.  These can be very cost-effective and quick alternatives to full probate litigation.