How a no-contest clause may help avoid some beneficiary disputes

You served as a referee for your children for years while you raised them and continued to do so when they were adults. Sigh. Now, you know that you will have to do the same from the grave. And you will have to accomplish this through clear directives in your will.

With a lifetime of bickering between them, your adult children likely will remain consistent. This worries you. It can put a monkey wrench in the probate process, promising to make what should be a smooth transition into an arduous and grueling one. But you have one potential legal “ace in the hole.” Instilling a no-contest clause in your estate plan may help you and your estate avoid excessive drama.

Serves as a deterrent

Provisions remain an essential part of a will, and one that sometimes gets overlooked is a no-contest clause. This provision also is called a forfeiture or terrorem clause. It represents a tool to help avoid the contesting of your will.

The way it works is that if heirs or beneficiaries contest the will, they lose any asset they would have received. They will walk away from the courtroom with nothing. A no-contest clause is a crucial provision that only kicks in when necessary to avoid potential trouble. It serves as a deterrent that just may allow the probate process to reach an effective conclusion.

You understand that ongoing disagreements among you adult children only turn the probate process into an expensive and chaotic one. A no-contest clause may lead to détente or even a truce among your beneficiaries.

However, you know them well and expect the disputes to continue well after the administration of your estate. But the difference now is that each of them inherits their rightful share of your estate.