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Is a no-contest clause the tool to prevent family probate feuds?

On Behalf of | Jul 28, 2022 | Estate Planning

The more property you have acquired during your adult life, the bigger your estate will be after you die. Those who pass more property on to their loved ones can expect there to be more conflict surrounding their last wishes.

For example, one family member may resent sharing their inheritance with others and may challenge your testamentary documents in the hope of receiving more of the estate. Especially if there is one problematic member in your family who always puts themselves first or if two of your children have had an intense rival reasons childhood, your beneficiaries could drag your estate through probate litigation.

Will contests can cost thousands of dollars to resolve and can undermine your last wishes. Even if they are unsuccessful, they will diminish what you leave for your loved ones. Is a no-contest clause a way to prevent such issues from affecting your Florida estate?

Florida will not enforce penalty clauses

A no-contest clause in a will or trust is essentially language forbidding beneficiaries from bringing frivolous litigation against the estate, the estate documents or the trust. If someone tries to sue anyway, they will trigger the no-contest clause, which results in a penalty. The probate courts may rule against them and strip them of their inheritance rights.

Such clauses are a powerful deterrent against selfish litigation, but they are not an effective tool in Florida. State law specifically prevents the courts from upholding a penalty clause in an estate plan. You can include one without necessarily invalidating the rest of the will, but if someone challenges the estate, they aren’t at risk of losing anything.

How can you prevent frivolous litigation?

If you cannot specifically prohibit your loved ones from fighting one another in court, a good second option may involve creating a trust. Trusts are often harder to challenge in court and give you lingering control over what happens to your most valuable property.

Many testators also discover that talking with their family members about their wishes in depth can go a long way toward diffusing future conflicts. If everyone knows for decades what to expect when you die, they won’t file a lawsuit out of disappointment caused by their unrealistic expectations.

Crafting an effective estate plan requires that you consider many issues, including possible future conflicts.