What Happens if There’s a Mistake in a Will (or Trust?)

People end up in court all the time because of a mistake or ambiguity in a document; one party interpreted a phrase as meaning one thing, another interpreted it differently. The court needs to decide which interpretation is correct. Or the document itself may be inconsistent, and it falls to the court to decide what was intended.

The need to interpret (and sometimes reform) a document often happens in the context of a contract dispute. But it also occurs with wills and trusts. How do Ohio courts address these mistakes or ambiguities?

Mistakes and Patent and Latent Ambiguities in Wills

To answer this question, we have to talk about the kinds of mistakes and ambiguities that arise. First, there are what lawyers call “patent ambiguities.” These are ambiguities that are obvious just from reading the document. For example, “I bequeath to my brother Daniel the sum of fifty thousand dollars ($5,000)” is patently ambiguous. Does the person making the will (the testator) mean the amount that is spelled out, or the numerical amount, which is different?

Then there are so-called “latent ambiguities.” These are statements that make sense on their fac… Read More

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Ted Gudorf - Ohio Probate Lawyer

The tasks involved in probating an estate can be daunting, especially for those who have never been through it before. We are committed to relieving anxiety around the probate process and to helping Ohioans through an often-challenging time in their lives.


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