What Are No-Contest Clauses in Wills?

A “No Contest” clause is a provision that is often included in wills that states that if a beneficiary challenges some provision of the will, then that person gets nothing from the will if their challenge is not successful. It is mainly designed to keep people from challenging wills if they want to benefit in any way from the will. It is an intimidation method used to make the probate process run more smoothly.

A Brief History of No Contest Clauses

In the early years of estate planning, no contest clauses were commonly upheld because there was no legal right to inherited property. Anything that you obtained from a loved one after they passed was more of a gift than a right. As such, there were few options for beneficiaries who wanted to protect their inheritance interests.

In the 1990s, Florida law shifted to allow more people access to the court system to deal with their grievances. The Florida legislature determined that no contest clauses limited beneficiaries’ access to the court system, which was a violation of public policy. As a result, clauses like no contest clauses in wills and other estate planning tools became unenforceable based on legislative changes.

Florida Does NOT Recognize No Contest Clauses

Florida explicitly does not recognize “no contest” clauses in wills. They are simply unenforceable if they are included in a will. The same type of provision is also not permitted in trusts that have been created after October 1, 1993.

Despite the fact that Florida does not recognize this type of clause, they are still sometimes included in a will. In most circumstances, they were set out in the will because someone used a DIY program or internet service to create their will that is not state-specific. There is simply no substitute for a practicing, real-life estate planning attorney experienced in helping Floridians with their estate planning.

Interestingly, even though no contest clauses are not enforceable under Florida law, they can still scare a beneficiary into not challenging a will because the beneficiary does not know that the provision is unenforceable. However, if the beneficiary took the will to an estate planning attorney in Florida, he or she would be able to tell the beneficiary that the clause is really just there for “show” and it cannot be enforced. Nonetheless, some beneficiaries do not take this extra step because they assume there is nothing they can do.

Currently, only Florida and Indiana will invalidate no contest clauses. That means that such a clause may be valid in other states. These provisions can present complicated legal issues in some circumstances. To learn more about no contest clauses and other common will and trust clauses, contact our team today.

Written by Legacy Planning Law Group

Legacy Planning Law Group is dedicated to working with individuals and families to help protect the assets they have built throughout their life, and make everything simpler for families who have lost a loved one. We help thoughtful people achieve the peace of mind that comes with planning their personal legacy and passing on family harmony.