How effective is a no-contest clause in protecting your will?

On Behalf of | Aug 30, 2023 | Estate Planning

Let’s face it, we live in a highly litigious society. Sometimes, unfortunately, a dissatisfied family member can go to court over a will. And as you can imagine, this can prolong the probate process and sow lasting seeds of animosity. It can also eat up a huge chunk of the estate in legal costs. 

To prevent frivolous disputes, you may consider adding a no-contest clause to your will. But do these clauses really work, and do you need one in the first place?

Understanding a no-contest clause

Basically, a no-contest clause bars beneficiaries from contesting the will on baseless grounds by stating that should they do so, they may forfeit their inheritance or any other benefit that they would have received per the terms of the will. 

This provision is meant to deter beneficiaries from fighting over your estate on unfounded grounds. However, the no-contest clause is only limited to the will’s beneficiaries, meaning that non-beneficiaries may still dispute the will. 

Are no-contest clauses always enforceable?

Not always. There are instances when a no-contest clause might not hold up in the eyes of the law. For instance, a will that does not meet the basics of Washington’s wills laws may be disputed, regardless of the existence of the no-contest clause. Likewise, a fraudulent will or one that was signed under duress or while you lacked the testamentary capacity can be disputed. 

You should never rule out the possibility that your beneficiaries might disagree with what you are leaving behind for them. Fortunately, understanding estate planning and litigation matters can help you explore options like trusts. Learning more can help you make a decision that preserves your legacy and beneficiaries’ best interests.