Reviewing Washington’s stance on no-contest clauses

| Mar 25, 2021 | Firm News

Having an interest in a person’s estate is a great honor, and one that you no doubt feel humbled by. Some might say that no matter what that interest may be, you should accept it (or the interest allotted to others) without question. Yet what if the terms of your loved one’s estate planning instruments seem to contradict their stated wishes?

Your first impulse may be to challenge those instruments. If they contain a no-contest clause, however, you risk the invocation clause disinheriting you. Many come to us here at Parr Price Law, P.S. concerned about this. If you share the same concern, you may justly want to know to what extent the law enforces such clauses.

When are no-contest clauses unenforceable?

In most cases, state courts respect no-contest clauses included in wills and trusts. They do, however, also recognize that there are situations where contests may be legitimate. Thus, court rulings interpret standards as to when you can challenge a will without invoking its no-contest clause.

A recent state court ruling cited the judgment used as the state’s standard in allowing will contests (in the presence of a no-contest clause) when it showed that you can challenge a will’s terms when you initiate a challenge in good faith (supported by probable cause) and the provision in question goes against public policy.

Differentiating public policy and personal grounds

When might a provision be in violation of public policy (as opposed to personal grounds)? A good example comes from the case that initially set the standard. A provision that broadly states you can never challenge a will may be in violation of the policy that bars terms seemingly in place for perpetuity.

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