If you are worried that your heirs might contest your will after you die, you may want to consider a no-contest clause in your estate plan. Before you do, however, you need to understand their uses and limitations.
A no-contest clause can’t legally stop someone from challenging your will if they’re determined to do so – but it does state that if an heir challenges your will because they don’t like their inheritance, they will lose that inheritance entirely if they lose their case.
For example, if you leave an heir $20,000 but they believe they should have received $40,000, they have to decide if they are willing to gamble that $20,000 they would otherwise receive in court. Exactly how much you need to leave a given heir to discourage them from taking a chance may vary considerably depending on the heir in question and the value of your overall estate.
No-contest clauses in California
California sanctions no-contest clauses only in certain situations. The clause can’t be enforced if the court believes that the heir, based on all the facts known to them at the time of filing would have led any reasonable person to believe that they had a chance of winning the contest.
A no-contest clause only applies to some portions of your estate plan and not others. For instance, a disgruntled heir may choose to challenge the executors of your will without necessarily violating the no-contest clause.
Where there’s a will, there’s a potential for war
Creating a clear and concise estate plan that is error-free is vital. Consider seeking legal guidance to determine the best method to execute your wishes. There may be other options you have yet to explore.