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What Is a No-Contest Clause in a Will?


Contesting a will can be a challenging and lengthy process, but what if the will you are trying to contest has a no-contest clause? This clause essentially disincentivizes beneficiaries from challenging the validity of a will by forfeiting their inheritance if they do.

Our Pompano Beach estate litigation lawyer at Mark R. Manceri, P.A., can guide you through the process of how to contest a will in Florida with a no-contest clause and help you overcome other challenges when trying to challenge the validity of someone else’s will.

What Is a No-Contest Clause in a Will?

A no-contest clause is a provision contained in a will with the intention of preventing any dispute or challenge to the document. It is typically included when a testator (the person creating the will) has concerns that his or her heirs may contest the will’s validity or the assets they receive. A no-contest clause states that if an heir contests the will, he or she will forfeit any bequests provided to them under the document.

How Does a No-Contest Clause Affect the Probate Process?

If a no-contest clause is enforced, the person who contests the will could lose their inheritance rights entirely. This can significantly impact the probate process because heirs who believe they have a legitimate challenge to the will may be deterred from taking any action.

However, if a court rules that the no-contest clause is unenforceable, the person who challenged the will would not lose any inheritance and could even receive a larger share. That being said, it is critical to keep in mind that contesting a will can be a long and costly process that might not be worth pursuing, depending on the circumstances.

When a No-Contest Clause May Be Non-Enforceable

In some instances, a no-contest clause might not be enforced, even if it is included in the will. For example, if the challenging heir had “probable cause” to contest the will, the provision might not be upheld. Probable cause means that there is a reasonable belief that the will is invalid or that the challenge is based on evidence that would lead a reasonable person to question the document’s validity.

Additionally, some states have enacted laws that limit or ban no-contest clauses entirely, so it makes sense to research the specific regulations in your state.

If you are thinking of challenging the validity of a will in Florida, you do not have to worry about no-contest clauses, because these clauses in wills are not enforceable under Florida law. Florida Statutes § 732.517 bans any provisions in wills that penalize beneficiaries or other interested parties for contesting the document.

Contesting a Will in Florida

As mentioned earlier, no-contest clauses are not enforceable in Florida. Therefore, if you want to contest a will, you do not need to worry about losing your inheritance.

To contest a will in Florida, you will first need to hire an attorney to represent you. An experienced probate attorney will guide you through the legal process of challenging a will, which involves filing a petition with the probate court. The petition should include the grounds for contesting the will, such as undue influence, fraud, duress, or lack of capacity.

Once you file the petition, the court will set a date for a hearing, where you will be required to present evidence to support your claims. This can include witness statements, medical records, and any other relevant documents. The burden of proof in a will contest is on the person challenging the will, so it is essential to have a strong case and evidence to support your claims.

Discuss Your Situation with a Lawyer

A no-contest clause may not be the only obstacle on your way when trying to contest a will. You might want to get legal counsel from our lawyer at Mark R. Manceri, P.A., to determine if you have grounds for contesting the will and identify what obstacles you may encounter when trying to pursue a will contest case in Florida. Call 954-491-7099 today to get a case review.

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