Safe Harbor to Contesting Will with No Contest Clause
Many clients want to challenge a will but are afraid that doing so could result in their being disinherited because the will contains a no contest clause. They ask me whether a case which takes place in Temecula, California, falls under any type of “safe harbor” statute.
Until a couple of years ago, there was indeed a safe harbor statute in California. Our courts have done away with this procedure, though, and here’s why it is actually a good thing.
A safe harbor petition is a document you file BEFORE filing a petition to contest a will, asking the judge, “Will this be a ‘contest’ resulting in my being disinherited under the no contest clause?”
Back when California had this statute, it used to take a year or even two of litigation to settle the safe harbor issue before even getting to the matter of the will contest itself.
Under the current law, California defines “contest” and goes a step further: if the contest is made with probable cause, it will not result in your being disinherited, even if you ultimately lose.