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What is a no-contest clause and does California law uphold it?

As part of the estate planning process, you or a loved one may have chosen to include a “no-contest” clause in the will or living trust. This is a provision that will cause a beneficiary to forfeit their inheritance if they make an unsuccessful California will contest. Therefore, keep in mind that California law enforces no-contest clauses in three specific cases:

  • Direct contest filed without probable cause 

In this case, “direct” contests can include protesting the validity of the will. They can include accusations of forgery, unsound mind, fraud, duress, or undue influence. Also, keep in mind that if a beneficiary comes forward with accusations of this nature without strong supporting evidence, the clause may be enacted.

  • A creditor’s claim filed against the decedent’s estate
  • Challenges to the ownership of property at the time of transfer

For these last points to be enacted, they need to be specifically mentioned in the language of the no-contest clause.

Furthermore, if you are a trustee dealing with a no-contest clause or trust litigation, we are here to help. The San Diego trust attorneys at The Grossman Law Firm offer San Diego trust litigation, will contests, estate planning, probate, and trust administration services. For a free, 30-minute case review with one of our attorneys, call toll-free 888-443-6590. Additionally, you may use our quick online contact form.

In conclusion, be sure to order a copy of Scott Grossman’s FREE book The Insider’s Guide to California Probate and Trust Administration today!

Additionally, here are the terms we mentioned defined:

Estate (noun):

An estate includes the things that a person owns. The things left by someone who has died can be distributed based on a Will, Trust, or Intestate laws. Estates have to be administered in the Probate Court if the estate meets certain criteria. See our Infographic on The Probate Process.

Beneficiary (noun):

A person who benefits from a trust, will, or life insurance policy. This includes heir, heiress, inheritor, legatee; recipient, receiver, payee, donee, assignee; devisee, grantee.

Scott Grossman

Scott Grossman


The Grossman Law Firm, APC · 525 B Street, Suite 1500, San Diego, CA 92101 · (951) 523-8307

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