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Could a no-contest clause backfire?

| Apr 30, 2021 | Uncategorized

The possibility of your heirs contesting your will may concern you. The monetary costs and emotional distress of a will contest is something you do not want for your surviving family members. You might think placing a no-contest clause in your will is the answer. Under some circumstances, it might actually provoke the contest you want to avoid.

With a no-contest clause, you specify that anyone who challenges your will in court shall not receive anything from your estate. Kiplinger explains the reasons why this clause, if used incorrectly, can be counterproductive.

Not leaving your heirs anything

Some people decide to disinherit close family members. There are various reasons why. They may be on poor terms or the testator knows a relative is irresponsible with money and will squander the inheritance. To protect their will from litigation from the disinherited relatives, testators in these situations put in a no-contest clause.

However, if a family member is not going to inherit from you, there is nothing to lose by contesting the will. If your relative loses in court, he or she is no worse off than before. And if a judge decides your clause is invalid, it could endanger your will’s provisions if a judge rules that your relative should receive something from your estate.

Providing incentive to accept your will

To make sure your relatives have something to lose by a will contest, you may have to leave them something even if you prefer to disinherit them. You would likely have to leave something other than a small inheritance that comes off as too insulting to accept. This may give your relatives an incentive to let your will stand.

If you fear your relatives might still contest your will, you may take other actions to protect the inheritance of your other heirs, such as placing property in a trust or giving your heirs joint tenancy or payable on death rights. Whatever options you choose will depend on your current family dynamics.

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