Whether you are making an estate plan to protect your children’s future or to preserve your wealth and assets through other means, one thing is certain: Your plans are your final instructions. Though you intend for your estate plan to protect your relatives’ bonds and relationships and prevent ill feelings and disagreements, disputes can decimate your carefully made plans.
Anyone who feels they have a claim may disagree and dispute your will. Adding a no contest (in terrorem) clause can help to ensure your loved ones honor your final instructions. It discourages those with illegitimate disputes with disinheritance.
No contest clause basics
A no contest clause does not prevent disputes from happening. However, it does help to prevent frivolous disputes that can eat away at your estate in probate fees. The clause only applies to heirs that you include in your estate plans. Heirs or parties who feel they have valid reasons, such as undue influence, fraud or incapacity to question or dispute your will are not bound by the no contest clause.
The impact of disputes
Death often brings out negative emotions and disagreements because someone becomes upset over the decedent’s final wishes. Your loved ones may not agree with your final wishes and may seek to alter them to suit their feelings and needs by way of a dispute. This can lead to other complications, such as your other heirs not receiving their full or actual inheritance, adverse tax consequences and a loss of control of what happens to your estate and assets.
Strengthening your estate plans with a no contest clause preserves inheritances and protects your loved ones, sometimes even from themselves.