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Does a no-contest clause always work?

On Behalf of | Jan 11, 2024 | Estate Planning |

When you draft a will, you hope your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. Sometimes, however, a will can be the root cause of a costly and time-consuming inheritance dispute. It’s on this basis that you may want to include a no-contest clause in your will. 

A no-contest clause is a provision that states that a beneficiary may automatically forfeit their inheritance should they dispute the will on flimsy or malicious grounds. But can a no-contest clause shield your will from disputes?

Understanding the scope of a no-contest clause

New Jersey probate law recognizes inclusion of no-contest clauses in estate planning documents like wills and trusts. As such, if the provision is valid, the court will certainly enforce it. On the other hand, if the clause violates public policy, then the court may not enforce it. For instance, a no-contest clause cannot be enforced if there is evidence of forgery, duress, fraud, improper will execution or lack of testamentary capacity at the time of creating the will. 

Also, remember that New Jersey is an equitable property state. This means that you may not have a no-contest clause that seeks to bar your spouse from accessing their legal portion of the estate. 

A will is one of the most important legal documents you can ever draft. Without one, the courts will intervene and determine what happens to your estate upon your death. One of the measures you can take to safeguard your will from beneficiary disputes is including a no-contest clause. Before doing so, however, you need to understand what this clause can (and cannot do) to your will.