Disinheriting in Ohio – it’s not as simple as you may think

A recent First District Court of Appeals decision highlights the importance of a thorough and properly executed will – particularly if you are seeking to disinherit a child or grandchild.

In Chambers v. Davis, C-130645, the decedent’s will specified that her daughter and grandson were to receive nothing from the estate, and bequeathed specified items to a niece.  The execution of the will was witnessed by the niece and one other witness.  There was no residuary clause directing the disposal of any remaining assets.

In general, Ohio Revised Code Section 2107.15 invalidates bequests to a person who is one of only two witnesses to the execution of the will.  Based on this section, the Probate Court declared the bequests to the niece void.  Because there was no residuary clause directing the gift otherwise, the specific property left to the niece was then distributed as if the decedent died without a will.

Under the statute of descent and distribution, the property that had been left to the niece passed to the disinherited daughter contrary to the desire of the decedent.

The court reported that Ohio probate law requires more than a simple statement directing that the disinherited party receive nothing.  To effectuate a disinheritance, you must properly disinherit the applicable party, and bequeath your assets to devisees other than the disinherited party.

To make sure your wishes are carried out, make sure your will contains a residuary clause and is properly witnessed.

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