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Does a no-contest clause actually prevent a dispute?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2022 | Estate Litigation |

If an estate plan has a no-contest clause, it can make it more difficult for disputes to begin. After all, the goal of that clause is simply to keep people from wanting to contest the terms of the estate plan.

It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to contest that plan or that the no-contest clause is going to prevent a dispute. There is some evidence that these clauses can deter disputes, because they increase the penalties for starting one, but they can still happen.

How does it work?

Generally speaking, a no-contest clause is simply going to say that a person who disputes the estate plan has to give up everything that they are inheriting. For instance, perhaps your parents left you $200,000 and your sibling $20,000. Your sibling feels this is unfair and challenges the will, but there’s a no-contest clause, so they also lose the $20,000 that they would have inherited if they had not contested it.

They need to be included from the beginning

One of the key parts of a no-contact clause is that the person who is challenging the will has to be included in it to start with. They need to have something to gain, which could then be lost if they lose that contest. In the example above, your sibling has been given $20,000, but this could include a wide range of assets depending on the situation.

Can it always be enforced?

It’s also important to remember that there are cases in which a no-contact clause can’t be enforced. For instance, Maybe you believe that your sibling used undue influence to get more assets from the estate and to convince your parents to add a no-contest clause. You may still be able to contest that estate plan on the grounds that the clause should never have been included to begin with, and you may not lose your inheritance if you are successful.

Of course, a situation like this can get very complicated, so it’s important to understand all of your legal options.