Will contests and no-contest clauses

Devising a will can either be relatively simple or it can be extraordinarily difficult depending on the circumstances at hand. This can include the number of assets and debts involved, the number of identified heirs and the complexities involved in the way that an individual intends to leave his or her estate via a will. Regardless of how in-depth a will needs to be though, an individual needs to ensure that it is crafted with clarity and thoroughness. Failing to do so could lead to a contested will.

A contested will can be costly to an estate and it can create an enormous amount of familial tension. Generally speaking, an individual named in a will or someone who would have received assets if the individual in question had passed away without a will can seek to contest a will. This usually means that close family members and named heirs can challenge a provision of a will, or even its entirety. Such a contest can threaten to undermine the way in which one's estate is passed down.

One way to try to avoid a will challenge is to include a "no-contest" clause within the will. In short, a no-contest clause states that an individual who unsuccessfully seeks to challenge a will cannot inherit anything. Therefore, those who are named in a will may find it better to accept what they are entitled to receive rather than risk it all by challenging the will.

While no-contest clauses are recognized in California, they are severely limited. Therefore, before including one in a will, it is worth fully understanding its limitations and discover other ways to deter and prevent will contests. A skilled estate planning attorney may prove valuable in these discussions.

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