What Are No-Contest Clauses in Wills?
When a person dies, their estate must go through the probate process. Not only does the probate process settle the decedent’s debts and distribute their estate to heirs according to the instructions left in the decedent’s will. However, the probate process is also the process where anyone who feels they have grounds to contest the will, can do so.
As a probate lawyer can attest, there are many reasons why a family member or other party may contest a will. For example, a family member may be concerned their elderly parent had been coerced into changing their will by a relative or friend who benefitted from the change. When a will is contested, the court will consider all evidence presented by interested parties and then decide whether the will is valid or if it should be thrown out and the courts will decide how the estate should be distributed.
There are also not-so-honest reasons why someone contests a will. If a family member is unhappy with their inheritance, they may contest the will as a way to try to convince the court they deserve more, even though the decedent was of sound mind and freely drafted the will with no undue influences. If you would like to avoid this type of issues with your estate, you may want to consider adding a no-contest clause to your will.
As a probate lawyer can explain, a no-contest clause is included in a person’s and specifies that if an heir contests a will, and is not successful, there will be a penalty on any inheritance they would have received. These clauses are good protection if you feel one of your heirs may contest your will out of contrariness, not because there will be any justification to do so. Not only does contesting a will draw the process out even longer, but the process can become a very expensive one, with court and attorney fees quickly eating up assets of the estate. A no-contest clause may be a strong deterrent for any heir who would otherwise consider taking this type of action.
One important thing to remember is that a no-contest clause does not mean a will is contest-proof. There are legitimate legal grounds that an heir can file a contest on and they will not be penalized. For example, if the heir has evidence that the decedent was mentally incapacitated when they wrote the will, the court can invalidate it.
Contact a Melbourne, FL Probate Lawyer for Assistance
If you need help drafting estate plans or updating your current estate plan, contact Arcadier, Biggie & Wood, PLLC for help. We will set up a consultation with a seasoned probate lawyer Melbourne, FL families recommend from our firm who will go over all of your options for how you would like your estate set up and answer any questions and concerns you may have.