Will Contests in Ohio – Frequently Asked Questions

If you expected an inheritance from a loved one but did not receive it, or received less than anticipated, you may have a good reason to challenge the deceased person’s last will and testament. Challenging the validity of a will is commonly called a “will contest,” and the person who created the will is called the “testator.”

Who may contest a testator’s will?
Anyone who would have benefited from the testator’s estate if the will in question did not exist. The contestant must prove they would have inherited by either the testator’s prior will, or by Ohio’s intestacy laws if the testator had no prior will. If the contestant would not receive an inheritance from testator’s prior will or from Ohio’s intestacy …

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Oil and Gas Protection Leases – A Good Idea?

What’s a Protection Lease?
Suppose there is an issue with the title to minerals under a 100 acre farm and it is clear that either Party A owns those minerals or Party B owns them.  Suppose further that this farm sits in the middle of a planned unit for a horizontal Utica shale well.  What can an oil and gas producer do to fix that situation?  More frequently, producers are using ‘protection’ leases to address this situation.
In the above example, the producer would obtain leases from both Party A and Party B, paying only a nominal amount upon signing of the lease.  A side agreement is also signed where all agree that any production royalties due on the acreage will be …

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Zoning – Oil and Gas issues

Regulating oil and gas via zoning
The last twenty years oil and gas drilling for Clinton Sandstone wells has moved into urban areas, as drilling locations in rural areas have been used up.  Under the concept of “home rule” enjoyed by municipalities, cities and villages enjoy broad police powers to regulate health, safety and public welfare.   As a result, a number of Ohio communities attempted to “zone-out” or otherwise regulate away drilling activity.  In State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-485, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a municipality could not impose its own stringent well permitting requirements on top of the state’s system of regulation.  The court found that under O.R.C. 1509, the Ohio Department …

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Zoning – Open Spaces

Open space preservation
Modern zoning planning has recognized the virtue of preserving open spaces, not only by establishing parks and recreation areas, but also by preserving the rural character of certain parts of communities and restraining urban sprawl.  This can be accomplished in several ways.  Agricultural zoning prohibits the use of land for commercial, industrial and residential purposes.  Cluster zoning assigns a given amount of land a certain amount of open space, but allows the developer flexibility in arranging the density of his buildings.  One portion of the project would be intensely developed, with open space aggregated to better effect elsewhere.
The last several decades have seen increasing use of Planned Unit Developments (“PUD’s”).  A PUD allows mixed use (residential and commercial, …

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Flexibility in Zoning Laws

Non-conforming uses
A nonconforming use is a use of property that predates the zoning code or, after enactment, was initially permitted, only to have the code subsequently changed.  The nonconforming use is allowed (O.R.C. 713.15) to continue because of the unfairness in forcing one who has invested in building in reliance on former law to be forced to cease operation and due to the fact that enforcing the new code against the “grandfathered” use may not be legal for constitutional reasons.  A nonconforming use may not be expanded.  Additionally, zoning codes typically provide that a use discontinued for a period of time acts as conclusive proof of the intention to abandon the use.
Conditional uses
A landowner may apply for an exception to …

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Township Zoning in Ohio

Overview
In Ohio over four million people live in unincorporated townships, the majority of which have enacted zoning ordinances.  Reasons include controlling what are, in the eyes of the community, inappropriate uses, dealing with growth pressures, and promoting economic development.
Governing Law
The authority for townships to enact zoning codes is found in Ohio Revised Code Sec. 519.02, which authorizes the regulation of the:
•    location, height, bulk, number of stories, and size of buildings and other structures;
•    percentages of lot areas that may be occupied, set back building lines, sizes of yards, courts, and other open spaces, the density of population, the uses of buildings and other structures;
•    uses of land for trade, industry, residence, recreation, or other purposes; and
•    landscaping and architectural …

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Zoning in Ohio – Overview

History
Zoning codes grew out of the limitations inherent in using the legal theory of nuisance as the sole tool for regulation of growth in American cities at the turn of the 19th century.  In that era, if a neighbor, for instance, was affected by the operation of a smelly slaughterhouse, he or she had to file a nuisance complaint in court and let a judge decide whether the noxious activity was appropriate for the neighborhood.  No planning was involved.  Issues relating to building uses, heights and location were handled by courts on an ad hoc basis.
Toward the end of the 19th century, new construction techniques (the first passenger elevators were installed in New York in the 1870’s) allowed construction of …

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Frequently Asked Divorce Questions

How long does divorce take in Ohio?
The length of a divorce proceeding depends on the type of divorce being pursued, and how agreeable the spouses are.  The fastest route is a dissolution of marriage.  Dissolutions require fully cooperative spouses, and can be finalized about 30 days after court filing.  The longest route is likely a contested divorce, which might not be resolved for years.
These time-frames are from filing date to court decree.  If a spouse wishes to modify the divorce decree (or appeal it), the spouses will find themselves in court again.  In this way, some divorces have several rounds, especially those involving child custody or property division disputes.
What type of divorce is right for me?
The divorce procedure you select …

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Pipeline Installation and Current Use Taxation in New Hampshire

Would the installation of a pipeline pull the affected land out of the favorable “current use” valuation regime and cause it to be taxed more heavily?
Background
Northeast Energy Direct (NED) has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a license to install a natural gas pipeline across southern New Hampshire.  The question has arisen as to the tax effect on an affected landowner under RSA 79-A, Current Use Taxation.  The issue: Would the installation of a pipeline pull the affected land out of the favorable “current use” valuation regime and cause it to be taxed more heavily?
What is the Current Use Tax rule?
New Hampshire has declared in RSA 79-A that it is the public purpose of the state to encourage …

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Unresolved Issues with Ohio’s Dormant Mineral Statute

Background
Over the past few years, Ohio’s courts, at all levels, have dealt with a number of issues pertaining to O.R.C. 5301.56, often referred to as Ohio’s dormant mineral statute. At this point in time, several such issues are about to be ruled upon by Ohio’s Supreme Court. One issue of importance, however, has received little mention in court rulings to date. That issue concerns the notice requirements by a landowner seeking to recapture dormant minerals. More particularly, what are those requirements?
Notice Requirements
(E) Before a mineral interest becomes vested under division (B) of this section in the owner of the surface of the lands subject to the interest, the owner of the surface of the lands subject to the interest shall …

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