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Educate yourself about no contest clauses before probate court

When someone dies, there are often concerns among loved ones and family members about how to handle the estate involved. Even when someone has taken the time to create a thorough and valid last will or estate plan, others within the family may not agree with the will or may find themselves unhappy about the administration of the estate.

That unhappiness can often give rise to challenges to an estate, which can result in the involvement of the probate courts. Some people creating last wills or estate plans will go to great lengths to avoid someone contesting their plans. In some cases, they may decide to include no contest clauses when planning their estates.

What is a no contest clause?

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a no contest clause is language within a last will or estate plan that penalizes those who contest the terms of the will. Sometimes, the penalties involve the loss of a portion of the assets assigned to that person. In other cases, no contest clauses could completely remove the person bringing the challenge from the will.

People generally includes these clauses in their last wills when they worry about one heir or descendant claiming more than a fair share or attempting to push other beneficiaries out of the estate. By including a no contest clause, the testator protects his or her intentions, wishes and legacy from challenges that could undermine them.

How do New York courts handle no contest clauses?

Every state in the country has its own approach to wills, estates and probate law. New York is no different, with its own unique history of both laws and legal precedent that impact court decisions.

Understanding how the state approaches no content clauses can help you understand how to approach issues with an estate in which you have an interest. Some states uphold them, while others, such as Florida, do not.

Typically speaking, New York probate courts uphold no contest clauses, regardless of whether the contest was brought in good faith or due to probable cause. They also uphold these clauses when included in trusts, as well as last wills or estate plans.

For the heirs and beneficiaries of an estate, bringing any sort of legal challenge against the estate could result in penalties, up to potential disinheritance.

Proceed with caution if your loved one included a no contest clause

Most people know about the contents of an estate plan before their loved ones pass on. After all, discussing an estate is one way to prevent conflict later down the line.

Whether you've known about the no contest clause for years or only discovered it when your loved one passed on, you need to carefully consider the implications of that clause before taking any legal action regarding an estate.

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