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.
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.
- 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.
If you are ready to start your case, then please give us a call or fill out our Get Help Now form. A comprehensive overview of California Probate is available here. Should you have additional questions about trust litigation, you will find plenty of useful information in our Learning Center.