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Should I contest my relative's will?

Your rich relative died and left everything to charity. You were hoping for a windfall. Can you contest the will?

In some cases, it may be possible, but not just anyone can contest a will. Only those who have legal standing and who are financially and personally affected by the terms of the testator's will can do so.

If you were a close relative to the testator and would have otherwise inherited had the individual died intestate (without a will), your status is an "heir-at-law." That typically includes children and grandchildren, but in the absence of those closer relatives, may include more distant kin.

Sometimes, a decedent may have written a prior will naming you as a beneficiary but later updated the will to exclude you. That will grant you grounds to contest the latter will, but the will must still be invalidated by the court.

Some testators anticipate their relatives may launch court battles over their estates and include "no contest" clauses in their wills. What this means is that if they challenge the wills in court and lose, they forfeit whatever inheritance they would otherwise receive. But to a disinherited relative, that presents few incentives to go away quietly.

The bottom line for will challenges is it depends greatly on what is at stake and the relationship you had with the decedent. Because it can be expensive to mount a will challenge in the Ohio civil court system, it's wise to consult with an attorney who handles estate and probate disputes before taking any action to contest a relative's will.

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