Dale M. Maas, Attorney at Law
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Are no-contest clauses enforceable?

As you prepare your will, your thoughts will likely turn to the potential of their being discord amongst your beneficiaries in Baton Rouge over its terms. You certainly do not want to see them fighting over your assets, as your wish is no doubt to benefit them as opposed to creating unneeded tension. Some might tell you that the easiest way to avoid this is to include a no-contest clause in your will. A no-contest clause is language stating that any beneficiary who challenges the terms of your will risks the chance of having their interest in your estate reduced (or being disinherited entirely). 

The trouble with no-contest clauses is that many try to argue that such provisions are unenforceable (especially in situations where the one raising the contest believes that they have probable cause to do so). According to the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, Louisiana has no statutory provisions that address no-contest clause enforceability. This leaves it to state courts to determine whether such clauses are enforceable. Generally, local court rulings have found that they are, regardless of good faith or probable cause. 

This does not necessarily mean, however, that including a no-contest clause in your will eliminates the potential for it to be challenged. Indeed, a beneficiary can dispute its validity (at the risk of invoking a no-contest clause) for any of the following reasons: 

  • Lack of capacity
  • Undue influence
  • Improper form
  • Fraud or forgery

If your will is indeed deemed invalid, then the disposition of your estate would likely default to the state's intestate succession guidelines. 

A no-contest clause might not be the only way of avoiding disputes amongst your beneficiaries. Including them in the estate planning process allows you to explain your motivations to eliminate any doubts regarding your intent.

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Dale M. Maas, Attorney at Law
11777 Justice Avenue
Baton Rouge, LA 70816

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