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Will the court enforce your no contest clause?

The ultimate goal of your estate planning efforts is likely to be so that those that you leave behind in Woodland Hills have no reason to question what your final wishes may be. It should be remembered, however, that no amount of planning on your part may be able to account for the emotions one or more of your beneficiaries may feel regarding their final interests in your estate. You may try to be proactive in stopping any potential disputes by including a no contest clause in your will. The question then becomes to what extent is such a clause enforceable?

Section 21310(c) of the California Probate Code defines a no contest clause as any provision in an estate instrument that could potentially penalize a beneficiary were he or she to initiate a pleading in court. This is meant to serve as a deterrent to beneficiaries from challenging the outlined administration of your estate. The law states that your no contest clause can be enforced in the following situations:

  •          One of your beneficiaries initiates a will contest without having probable cause to do so
  •          Your right to transfer estate property is challenged due to an alleged lack of ownership
  •          A creditor’s claim is filed against your estate

However, probable cause to directly contest the provisions of a will or trust is said to be present of one of your beneficiaries has facts that could cause a reasonable person to believe that further investigation into the claims he or she is making would grant the relief he or she is seeking. If such information does indeed exist, the court may choose to overlook any no contest provision you have created. 

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