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What is a no-contest clause and does one always work?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2023 | Estate planning

When you create a will, you likely do so with a primary goal in mind: to make clear your wishes regarding how you want your assets to be distributed when you die. Without a will, the government will intervene and make this important decision on your behalf, which is a less-than-ideal situation.

A will can also be the genesis of conflicts, especially if someone is not happy with the manner in which someone has distributed their estate. This explains why more and more people are including no-contest clauses in their wills.

Understanding no-contest clauses

Basically, a no-contest clause stipulates that any beneficiary who challenges a will on any grounds shall give up any inheritance allotted to them as well as any other benefit they would have received per the terms of the will.

The no-contest clause is generally enforceable unless someone can prove that they have a “just cause” to challenge the will and that their decision is informed by good faith.

What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of including a no-contest clause in your will?

A no-contest clause comes with some distinct benefits. They include:

  • Honoring your right to give away your property in the way you intended and ensuring that your decision to pass along your property to the people and causes you care about will be respected
  • Discouraging baseless contests from disgruntled beneficiaries
  • Avoiding lengthy and costly lawsuits that can eat into the value of your estate while delaying probate

A no-contest clause also comes with the following limitations:

  • It might gag a beneficiary to forfeit their inheritance for questioning the validity of the will
  • It might impede the court’s ability to establish the validity of the will
  • It does not bar non-beneficiaries from contesting the will

Protecting your rights

A no-contest clause can be a crucial tool if you want to avoid unnecessary conflicts over your will. Learning more about California wills laws with the assistance of a legal professional can help you protect your rights and interests while drafting your estate plan.