Attorneys Stephen Korshak and Lee Karina Dani

Will a no-contest clause keep you from challenging a will?

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2023 | Probate Litigation |

Human relationships are full of complexities, and they often change over time. You may have gone through a difficult time in your relationship with your parent at some point in the past, then reconciled long before they passed away.

It can come as a shock, then, to find that you were given little in your parent’s will when they died while your sibling was given much more – and that there’s a “no-contest” clause that is designed to cut you out entirely if you challenge the will in court.

What is a no-contest clause?

Essentially, they’re clauses in a will that are designed to stop someone from contesting a will before they even start through a “carrot and stick” approach to the issue. The “carrot” is what you stand to gain by accepting the will as it is, and the “stick” is the threat of losing everything if you challenge the will and lose.

In this situation, for example, your parent left you something – money, property or other things that you value – but the no-contest clause says that if you raise a challenge and aren’t able to overturn the will, you won’t even get that small amount. Your sibling will inherit all.

Is this enforceable?

Florida is unique in that it entirely forbids the use of restrictive covenants in wills by law on the basis that they’re largely unfair and limit someone from exercising their legal rights. No-contest clauses cannot be enforced.

Why, then, is there one there in the first place? If your parent used to live in another state, they may have drafted the will some years ago in a place where no-contest clauses are valid. If that happened to be when your relationship was still fractured, they may have simply neglected to update their will before they died.

Or, an alternative explanation is that your sibling may have influenced the creation of the current will and pressured your parent into adding the no-contest clause without being aware it couldn’t be enforced. This may be particularly likely if the will was drafted using an online service or another “DIY” process.

If you want to challenge a will, don’t let a no-contest clause scare you away. Experienced legal guidance can help you determine all your options and look for a resolution to your problem.