Naperville Estate Planning Attorney on How a No-Contest Clause Could Prevent Your Will From Being Challenged
When an individual dies with a will or trust in place, the decedent’s surviving loved ones have an opportunity to contest, or challenge, the estate planning document. A will or trust should only be contested if the surviving loved ones have a reason to believe that the will was not valid. For example, if they believe that the will was written under force or duress or they have reason to think the will is fraudulent, these are grounds for contesting the will. However, sometimes people contest a will simply because they do not like its contents. If you are worried that your will may be contested, one option that may be beneficial to you is a “no-contest” clause.
How Does a No-Contest Clause Work?
A no-contest clause, also called an “in terrorem” clause, is a provision in a will that discourages beneficiaries from challenging the will. A no-contest clause states that if a beneficiary challenges the will, that he or she will lose part or all of his or her inheritance. For example, say your will awards $20,000 to your grandchild but the will also contains a no-contest clause. If the grandchild contests the will in an attempt to gain a larger inheritance, he may lose the $20,000. You can specify exactly how much a beneficiary will lose by challenging the will.
The Limits of a No-Contest Clause
There are many misunderstandings when it comes to no-contest clauses. Some people incorrectly think that if their will has a no-contest clause that it is exempt from any challenges. A no-contest clause does not prevent a will from being contested, it only discourages a beneficiary from contesting the will. A no-contest clause might not be effective if a beneficiary does not stand to lose a significant inheritance. Furthermore, if a will is challenged successfully, the no-contest clause no longer has any value. If your will is deemed invalid, none of its directions will be followed. Instead, your possessions will be distributed to heirs according to state law or any previous valid will. Your will could be considered invalid if it was not properly executed, if it can be proven that you lacked testamentary capacity, or if evidence suggests that the will was written under undue influence. This is why it is so important to have a qualified estate planning attorney review your will for validity.
Contact a Naperville Estate Planning Attorney
When it comes to something as important as your will, it is best not to take chances. Contact the Gierach Law Firm to get the legal guidance you need so that you can have the peace of mind you deserve. Call our office at 630-756-1160 to schedule a consultation with a highly accomplished DuPage County estate planning lawyer.