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What happens if you challenge an estate with a no-contest clause?

| Mar 1, 2021 | Estate Planning |

Disappointments in an estate plan might result from unrealistic expectations. If you always thought you were your mother’s favorite, you might have anticipated her leaving more to you than to your siblings. Receiving an equal share could feel unfair in that situation.

Other people feel disappointed because the terms included in a last will contradict what they know their loved one had planned. Finding out that your father disinherited you to leave everything to the nurse who took care of him for the last six months of his life could make you question whether the last will honestly reflects your loved one’s intentions.

If they included a no-contest clause in their plan, that clause likely threatens anyone who challenges their wishes with disinheritance. Does that mean you should accept a last will that you believe reflects fraud, lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence?

If you have a reason to challenge the estate, the last will can’t stop you

No-contest clauses are a popular inclusion in people’s last wills or estate plans. By threatening to reduce or completely eliminate the inheritance of someone who has the last will, the testator may help prevent unnecessary conflict among their beneficiaries.

While such clauses are common, they are not legally enforceable in Florida. The state has a law stating that the court cannot uphold such a penalty clause. Someone can include such a clause in their last will without necessarily invalidating the rest of the document. Still, if someone with probable cause challenges the estate, the courts will hear the challenge without penalizing that individual.

No-contest clauses can protect those that victimize older adults

Refusing to enforce no-contest clauses is pragmatic in a state with many aging residents. Those who intentionally manipulate or abuse older adults for financial gain through their estate might pressure someone to add such a clause. When they die, their family members could feel they have no chance of fighting against questionable, late-in-life changes to an estate plan.

By choosing not to enforce no-contest clauses, Florida helps protect the true, lifelong wishes of a testator by giving a family an opportunity to speak up when something doesn’t seem right.

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