As we all know, family dynamics can make estate planning challenging. When I have clients that are concerned about a specific individual challenging the validity of their will or trust, they often ask me if they should add a no-contest clause provision in their estate plan. In theory these clauses are designed to prevent unhappy relatives from challenging your will or trust. In practice, however, a no-contest clause truly only discourages someone who has something to lose by challenging your estate plan in court.
Below is sample language of a standard no-contest clause:
“If any beneficiary under this will seeks to obtain in any proceeding in any court an adjudication that this will or any of its provisions is void, or seeks otherwise to void, nullify, or set aside this will or any of its provisions, then the right of that person to take any interest given to him or her by this will shall be determined as it would have been determined had such person predeceased the execution of this will without issue.”
Let’s say for example you have two adult children, each of whom is set to inherit $25,000. If one of those children is financially irresponsible and is really depending on that inheritance, he or she will likely think twice about launching a will challenge as a loss in court could cost them their much-needed inheritance.
However, if you choose to completely disinherit someone, that individual would have nothing to lose by contesting your will. Going back to our example, if you disinherited one child, he or she would lose nothing by challenging your will because if they win (by having your will declared invalid), that child would theoretically inherit half of your estate.