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What happens when a will includes a no-contest clause?

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2023 | Estate Planning

When a loved one dies, settling his or her estate can be stressful. Family dynamics can be complicated, and your inheritance may not be what you expected.

If you believe your loved one was not of sound mind or was under undue influence from another party while writing the will, you can contest it. However, you might think twice if the will includes a no-contest clause.

What is a no-contest clause?

A no-contest or in terrorem clause is a stipulation in a will stating that anyone who contests the will shall inherit nothing. The intention of such clauses is to reduce the risk of a drawn-out legal battle, and a person might include one in a will if he or she believes that certain heirs will attempt to dispute the will’s validity to gain a bigger inheritance.

A major drawback of this approach is that the clause only works if the person contesting the will has received an inheritance to begin with. Otherwise, he or she has nothing to lose by contesting the will. In most states, the clause does not apply if there is a valid reason to contest the will, and in some places, they are entirely unenforceable.

What if your loved one’s will includes one?

If the deceased was a Florida resident at the time of his or her death, the no-contest clause means very little. This is because Florida is one of two states that does not allow the enforcement of no-contest clauses, the other being Indiana.

Discovering that your relative’s will has a no-contest clause can be alarming, but it should not deter you from taking legal action if you believe the will to be invalid.