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Estate planning attorneys sometimes turn to a no contest clause to possibly avoid estate plan challenges.

An inheritance does not always make a recipient happy and it is especially likely to cause dissatisfaction if a sibling believes they have not been treated fairly. Traditionally, there was not much that could be done to prevent these people from challenging an estate.

Estate planners often turn to utilizing “no contest clauses” in an attempt to prevent these challenges as discussed by the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog in “New Case In Virginia Sheds Light On No Contest Clauses.”

A no contest clause is a statement in a will or trust. Typically the clause provides that if someone is a beneficiary of that will or trust and challenges the validity of the document, then the challenger will be cut out of the will or trust and receive nothing. This obviously creates a strong disincentive for heirs and beneficiaries not to launch legal challenges to inherit more than an estate plan already gives them. Of course, the clauses do not prevent challenges from people who receive nothing from the will or trust.

Generally, courts will uphold no contest clauses but the clauses will be strictly interpreted. The court will not go outside of the plain meaning of the clause to disinherit challengers. In many states, an exception to enforcement of the clauses exists by law.

An estate planning attorney could help guide and advise you on how to reduce the chances of a challenge.

Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Feb. 24, 2016) “New Case In Virginia Sheds Light On No Contest Clauses.”

Mr. Amoruso concentrates his practice on Elder Law, Comprehensive Estate Planning, Asset Preservation, Estate Administration and Guardianship.