When it comes to distributing your estate among your heirs upon your death, you must be very specific about your intentions. However, even if you are very clear with your wishes, there is always a chance that a litigious relative will file suit against your estate to alter the distribution. You may think that this will not happen in your family, but to be sure, there are some safeguards that you can put in place. A well crafted no-contest clause will ensure your intentions are respected and keep your family out of court.
- Your Will Is Not Foolproof
You may have thought long and hard about what you want to leave to each member of your family and carefully crafted your will to reflect your wishes. Even if you think that it is fair and equitable, your family may not completely agree. Some people may not be entirely happy with the amount they receive and he or she may decide to contest the will. This process can take years, and cost a great deal of money. Not only that, but it can keep your heirs from getting what they are entitled to.
- Reasons Wills Are Contested
Sometimes, family members believe that they are being treated unfairly and that they deserve a larger portion of the estate than they are willed. At other times, it may appear that a family member has undue influence and has convinced the deceased to leave them a greater portion of the estate. In other cases, there is a question of whether the individual had the mental capacity to make important decisions when the will was signed. Of course, there are also times that fraud, forgery and other illegal activity are suspected. Any of these reasons could lead to litigation.
- How a No-Contest Clause Works
A no-contest clause is a statement within your will that states that if any beneficiary challenges the distribution of your assets in court, they forfeit their right to receive anything. The intention is to keep family members and others from challenging your wishes. Although this clause is generally enough to keep families out of court, unfortunately, it is not a fail-safe method of protecting your estate.
- Enforcing A No-Contest Clause
A no-contest clause is only enforceable against a “direct contest” brought without “probable cause.” In other words, if a beneficiary is unhappy about the amount that they are left in your will is not necessarily a good reason to contest it. There has to be a compelling reason, such as forgery, lack of capacity, duress, fraud, or lack of due execution. In these cases, with proof, it is very likely that the person contesting, will have a good chance of success.
- Protecting Your Estate and Beneficiaries
A no-contest clause is an essential part of your will, especially if you are concerned that there are family members who will contest it after your death.
If you have questions about your will or any issues regarding your estate planning, please contact the Torrance estate planning attorney at our firm for a free consultation.