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Why do people add no-contest clauses to their wills or trusts?

On Behalf of | Mar 13, 2023 | Estate Planning

Every year, thousands of people die in New Jersey and New York without estate plans in place. Their families often end up in probate court arguing over what happens to their most valuable assets. These disputes can do long-lasting damage to family relationships and inevitably diminish the overall value of the estate in question as well.

Many adults who are thinking about their legacies will make concerted efforts to avoid probate challenges by creating thorough, enforceable estate planning documents. Both wills and trusts will give a testator direct control over what happens with their property when they die and can eliminate disagreements about their true wishes after they are gone.

However, people who are dissatisfied with the terms of an estate plan might still try to challenge a testator’s wishes in probate court. Some testators who are thinking about their final legacy will decide to include a no-contest clause in their trust documents or will. There are numerous reasons why someone may choose to take this course of action.

They have a complex family history

Perhaps the testator has a family member who has an unparalleled sense of entitlement and would likely fight to control as much of the estate as possible. Maybe two of the children in a family find a reason to fight in almost any situation.

A testator might recognize that their family is at elevated risk of a challenge because of the dynamics among beneficiaries and may seek to avoid those issues ahead of time with a proactive no-contest clause.

They have special legacy wishes

In scenarios where someone’s estate plan largely aligns with intestate rules for similar family situations, the risk of a challenge ending with dramatic deviations from their plans is relatively minimal. However, if someone takes drastic steps to alter what family members might inherit from their estate or to benefit one loved one over other family members, then disappointed relatives might initiate probate litigation by claiming some factor reduces the legitimacy of the estate plan.

Those who believe that their last wishes may come as a shock to family members or upset certain people might benefit from including a no-contest clause in their estate planning documents. Exploring different estate planning tactics can help testators achieve their goals for their legacy and their personal protection whenever their estate plan becomes urgent business for their loved ones.