You’ve had a will for years, but now you’re thinking about updating it. And that’s a good idea: as your life changes, so should your will. Or maybe you have no will and you’re considering making one now. One thing to consider regardless, is whether or not to include a no-contest clause. That is especially useful in case you have estranged relatives that might challenge your will. But what is a no-contest clause in a last will?
Contesting a will as an estranged relative is hard
First off, it’s worth mentioning that contesting a will as an estranged relative is not easy.
Let’s say that you are the estranged relative of a decedent who has passed away and left behind a will. You may be wondering whether or not you can contest that will. The short answer is yes. However, it is important to know that this process will not be easy for anyone. Contesting a will always requires proof and a good argument so an estranged relative may lack either or both.
How can you prevent estranged relatives from contesting your will?
Make sure your will is valid. If you don’t have a valid will, the court may appoint an administrator to oversee your estate until they find one.
Make sure your will is up-to-date. Maybe there has been a change in circumstances since you last updated your will. For example, if you or one of your children is now married or divorced. Then there may be new people who should take precedence in terms of inheritance over others. The more up-to-date your will is the smaller the chance the a will contestation is going to be successful.
Appease any estrange relatives by giving them something small but meaningful. This could give them reason for holding off on filing a suit. Or it might even inspire them toward reconciliation with other members of family.
- The final option is what this articles focuses on: a no-contest clause.
What is a no-contest clause exactly?
A no-contest clause is a provision in a will that states that anyone who contests the will shall not receive anything from it. It’s a form of disinheritance. A no-contest clause for wills is legal in almost 50 states and common in many areas of estate law. The exception is Florida and Indiana since they won’t enforce a no-contest clause will no matter what.
People use these clauses when there’s a family feud. For instance, if an estranged family member has done something to offend or upset the person who wrote the will. If someone contests your will, you can usually still make sure that they are receive something. That will probably not be the case if you have a no-contest clause in place.
No-contest: a way to discourage challenges
A no contest clause is a way to discourage challenges to the terms of a will. You can add this clause to any will or trust document as an extra safeguard against anyone who might try to question its validity. The clause allows you to designate any beneficiary who contests your estate plan as an heir but denies them any property if they do so.
In legal terms, having such a clause in place can be seen as a deterrent against frivolous litigation. In simple words, it discourages those who might otherwise seek out any possible loophole from challenging your will at all. If someone does decide to challenge it, though, then their it gains them nothing in return. Instead of rewarding them with more wealth (which was probably what they were hoping for), you’re punishing them. After all, you’re having none whatsoever passing through their hands after you have passed away.
A no-contest clause can apply to anyone who contests all or part of a will
You can use a no-contest clause in more cases too. For example, when you leave property to someone who does not have any siblings or children. What if there is concern about whether the person would fight having less than half of what they should receive? A contest-clause would help with that.
Or, a no contest clause may be useful when there are numerous heirs with small shares due them: The testator (you) may want to protect themselves from spending time and money defending their actions against lawsuits. Especially lawsuits filed by heirs who have little stake in their inheritance but want more than what they got.
No-contest and bad faith
In some states, a no contest clause only applies when the legatee challenges the will in bad faith. In other words, let’s say that a person challenges their parent’s will with a legitimate reason. Then they may still be able to receive benefits from it even if there is a no-contest clause.
The most common reasons for challenging a will are that someone feels that they were not treated fairly by their parent. Or that there were clear signs that their parent was not mentally competent at the time of writing their final wishes. If there’s such evidence then the contestation is not in bad faith.
No-contest doesn't always prevent contestation
Including a no-contest clause in your will is a good idea if you want to discourage challenges. However, it’s important to remember that the clause itself does not guarantee that there will be no challenge to your estate plan. Challenges can still occur even with a no-contest clause. However, including this type of language may help deter legal action from certain beneficiaries. After all, everyone wants for probate to be as quick as possible.
If you’re worried about any challenges to your will, one way to protect yourself is by including a no-contest clause. This clause prevents any person from challenging the terms of your will in court if they don’t get what they want. Although this can be an effective deterrent for some people, it’s not guaranteed to always prevent challenges. If someone still wants to challenge a will with a no-contest clause, they may still try to do so.
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