Will contests can occur when a family member or other beneficiary receives less of a share of their inheritance, or were completely written out of a last will and testament, and feel that the decisions regarding their inheritance render the will invalid. A case is brought in the probate court, and the validity of the will is determined by a judge. Will contests cause all those involved a significant amount of money and can leave family relationships beyond repair. No-contest clauses allow will makers an option to at least try to avoid some of the consequences of a will contest.
In the simplest terms, a no-contest clause is inserted into a last will and testament and states that if any beneficiary should challenge the validity of the will in court and lose, they will also lose whatever inheritance was left to them in the will. It may cause your disgruntled beneficiaries to think twice before bringing a will contest before a judge, because they risk losing out on their entire inheritance and will be saddled with some fairly expensive legal fees. In addition, Ohio state law does not recognize good faith or probable cause issues concerning no-contest clauses in will contests. This is different from many other states, which hold that if a person brings a will contest forward with probable cause, good faith, or other justifications, the no-contest clause may be ruled invalid.
However, no-contest clauses do not eliminate the threat of will contests entirely. For example, if you completely disinherit a family member from your last will and testament who otherwise would have received some sort of inheritance, a no-contest clause will not stop them from bringing a challenge to court, since they already have nothing to lose. A person bringing a will contest may also win their challenge, rendering the no-contest clause invalid and changing beneficiary distributions from what the will originally laid out.
If you think a will contest is possible after your death, it’s important to speak with an Ohio will attorney about your options, including adding a no-contest clause. An experienced attorney can run through possible scenarios with you, and provide advice relevant to your individual situation.
For more information about no-contest clauses and how they can help avoid legal challenges after your death, or if you’d like to review your current estate plan, please contact our office at 877-653-3450 to schedule an initial complimentary consultation.