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No-Contest Clauses

Palm Desert Firm Advises on No-Contest Clauses in Wills and Trusts

California lawyers explain rules on terms designed to prevent challenges

Many testators and trust creators have sought to discourage people from challenging their legal documents by inserting “no contest” clauses in their wills and trusts. These provisions state that potential beneficiaries who choose to challenge the legality of the instrument in question forfeit their right to any benefits they would receive based on that instrument. For example, a person who was to be given half of a decedent’s estate in a will would not collect any inheritance if they contested the will and lost. As these clauses can have a chilling effect on legitimate challenges, California and other jurisdictions have limited their enforceability. Whether you’re considering the use of a no-contest provision or are dealing with the effects of one, the experienced attorneys at Bochnewich Law Offices in Palm Desert will provide thorough advice and advocacy.

Attorneys outline standards used to enforce no-contest provisions

Courts strictly examine no-contest clauses, so any ambiguity will likely go against the party trying to enforce one. During a free initial consultation, our attorneys can explain how California Probate Code Section 21311 affects particular situations, such as:

  • Challenges lacking probable cause — If probable cause exists to challenge a will or trust, then the no-contest clause will not be applied. Should probable cause not exist, benefits might be revoked if the objection is based on alleged forgery, incapacity, fraud or undue influence.
  • Questions about property ownership — When a testator or trust creator specifically includes a no-contest clause addressing disputes over whether the grantor actually owns the property in question, that clause can be upheld.
  • Applicability to specific amendments — Even if a no-contest clause exists somewhere else within a document, it might not be enforceable in an amendment that doesn’t contain the necessary language.

Despite its name, a no-contest clause doesn’t prevent any actual or potential beneficiary from challenging a will or trust. However, it’s best to obtain an informed perspective from a qualified attorney on the circumstances in your case before making a decision that could create a financial risk.

Contact a knowledgeable California wills and trusts lawyer for a free consultation

Bochnewich Law Offices advises Coachella Valley clients regarding no-contest clauses and other issues relating to wills, trusts and probate. Please call 760-776-1377 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation at our Palm Desert office.

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