We recently posted tips to help you to avoid family conflicts over your estate. However, we are also mindful of the fact that some people may not be satisfied with how you have provided for them in your estate plan. For those beneficiaries of your estate, the law offers you an option that might make them think twice before pursuing a will contest.
Regardless of your best estate planning efforts, there might be someone who believes that he or she should have gotten more. The relative you leave out of your will altogether might decide to challenge your perfectly valid will just on the chance that the estate or the other beneficiaries will offer a settlement to make the litigation go away.
In terrorem, or no contest, clauses are designed to make someone think twice before starting challenging the terms of a will that has been submitted to a court for probate. A no contest clause does not prevent or prohibit someone from commencing litigation challenging a will or some of the provisions in a will.
No contest clauses state that a person challenging a will forfeits any inheritance he or she might have otherwise received. The clauses were meant as a deterrent to those who would start a will contest in court in the hope of negotiating a settlement or just to create problems for the other individuals sharing in the estate.
Some states do not recognize in terrorem clause and refuse to enforce them. Courts in Ramsey County are guided by a Minnesota law that allows courts to enforce the clause unless there was probable cause for the litigation. In other words, a judge in St. Paul may find a valid will exists after a challenge to it, but also rule that the person contesting the will had sufficient cause for doing, so the terms of the no contest clause should not be enforced.
A St. Paul probate and estate attorney might be a good source for information about in terrorem clauses in wills. An attorney might offer estate planning advice to someone seeking wealth protection to help to avoid challenges to an estate.