Will a no-contest clause actually work?

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2022 | Estate Planning |

If you don’t want anyone to contest your estate plan or start an estate dispute, you might consider using a no-contest clause.

The way that this works is by stating that, should someone start such an estate dispute, they forfeit anything that they would have inherited. This is often used in cases where someone may be inheriting less than they thought. Perhaps they assumed they were going to get $100,000 but they’re actually only going to get $10,000. If they try to contest the plan, they lose the $10,000 as well.

This can only work in limited situations

These clauses can work, but they don’t always do what you’d expect. For one thing, if the court in Pennsylvania decides that there actually was probable cause and there was a valid reason for the challenge, then they’re not going to enforce the no-contest clause. They may enforce it if the will contest appears to be frivolous, but not if it’s actually warranted. This means that someone with a complaint may still be able to start that estate dispute.

Furthermore, even a no-contest clause that is going to stand up in court won’t always prevent estate disputes. Someone can still contest it and risk losing their inheritance. The clause may lower the odds that this will happen, of course, but it is not a guaranteed system where you know that there won’t be a dispute.

As such, if you’re really concerned with avoiding these disputes, it’s better to think of all the legal steps that you can take to prevent them beyond just using a no-contest clause.