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No contest: understanding an ‘in terrorem’ clause

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An in terrorem clause, or a no contest clause, is a clause that provides that a beneficiary who contests a will shall take nothing, or a small amount, in lieu of the provisions made for the beneficiary in the will. No contest clauses are useful clauses to reinforce the benefit of estate planning – in that estate planning streamlines gifts after death.

No contest clauses are most useful in wills that distribute property in a way that is not equal to beneficiaries, or where family members are written out of wills entirely. Ordinarily, wills are believed to be documents that distribute a person’s assets according to their wishes. No contest clauses ensure that assets are distributed exactly as the deceased wishes.

No contest clauses are standard in most wills. The only way to get around a no contest clause is to have cause to challenge the will. Cause in the case of a valid will contest can consist of undue influence, fraud or mistake. In so many words, will contests are usually valid when the contest revolves around the mental capacity of the deceased, and if anyone could have swayed the deceased at the time that the will was made.

Skillern Law Firm, PLLC uses no contest clauses. Call the offices of Skillern Law Firm, PLLC today to talk about your estate planning needs. Also, check out last week’s blog about the Supreme Court of the United States.

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