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What is a no-contest clause?

You're writing your will, but are worried that one of your heirs is going to challenge it. Trying to prevent a disagreement with surviving family members, you decide to look into your options to prevent the challenge.

One option that you have is simply to use a no-contest clause stating that someone who challenges the will gives up all that was left to him or her in that will.

For example, perhaps your son believes you should leave him $500,000. You're only planning on leaving him $100,000. If he challenges the will and asks for the full $500,000, then he won't even be given the $100,000.

While this can't prevent all challenges, it's a significant deterrent.

There are two things to note about this clause, though. First of all, your heir has to lose the challenge. If he or she wins, then the clause doesn't apply. It is only applied if the heir challenges and the court decides it doesn't have merit. It's a risk, but it doesn't mean your heir has nothing to gain.

Additionally, an heir who has not been left anything will have no reason not to challenge. If you left your son $0 instead of $100,000 in the above example, he's getting nothing if he doesn't challenge. If he challenges and loses, he's still getting nothing. The clause is not a deterrent to cutting someone from your estate plan completely.

This is just one option you may want to consider when doing estate planning. It is helpful to review all viable options when deciding what you will leave to your heirs.

Source: The Balance, "Who Can Contest a Will?," Julie Garber, accessed June 15, 2017

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