Will a no-contest clause work to keep your will secure?

On Behalf of | Jan 6, 2022 | Wills |

While doing your estate planning, you hear plenty of stories about heirs who start will contests and end up in legal disputes with their siblings. You don’t want that to happen to your family, so you consider adding a no-contest clause to the estate plan.

Essentially, the clause says that no one is allowed to challenge the will. Should they do so, they automatically give up what they would have received for their inheritance. This raises the stakes so that they don’t start a will contest over something petty. But is it going to work?

The heir would have to lose the contest

One of the most important things to know about a no-contest clause is that it does not actually prevent someone from contesting the will. It simply means that, if they lose that challenge, then they are not going to get what they would have otherwise been entitled to.

If they win the challenge, they can still inherit. In fact, they may challenge the no-contest clause itself. For instance, one heir could say that the will is a forgery, created by another sibling in an illegal manner and that that sibling added the no-contest clause without the parent’s knowledge. If they win that challenge, then they are still going to inherit based on the legal provisions in the will.

As noted above, the no-contest clause is more aimed at small or petty grievances that are not going to result in a legal victory but could drag out the process. It can act as a deterrent, and it may work in these cases. But it does not mean that there is no chance of a contest. If you want to use a clause like this, make sure you know exactly how it works and what steps to take.