When can beneficiaries challenge a will’s no-contest clause?

On Behalf of | Oct 12, 2023 | Estates

No-contest clauses are legal provisions commonly found in wills and trusts. These clauses serve as a deterrent, preventing beneficiaries from challenging the terms of the document.

If a beneficiary believes there is a legitimate reason to challenge the document, such as fraud or undue influence, they may seek to do so. Below are some situations when challenging a will’s no-contest clause may be possible:

Valid reasons and good cause

This provision recognizes that there may be circumstances where beneficiaries have legitimate concerns about the will’s validity or the fairness of its terms. In such cases, the legal system allows for an examination of these concerns.

Trustees and fiduciaries

When people in charge of handling an inheritance, like trustees and fiduciaries, want to question a no-contest rule, there are some situations where they can do that. However, they can only challenge the will if they are not supposed to follow the no-contest rule themselves as beneficiaries. This rule is there to allow those in charge of distributing the trust to bring up concerns when needed.

Interpretation of the will

Beneficiaries have the right to seek a court’s judgment regarding the interpretation of the will’s terms. This is especially important when the language in the will is ambiguous or unclear, as the court’s guidance ensures they understood the testator’s intentions and executed these correctly.

Matters of discretion

In cases where the court has discretion, beneficiaries, executors or other fiduciaries can contest various issues. This includes matters like proposed distributions, fiduciary fees and other issues where the court has the authority to make decisions. This provision allows the legal system to intervene to ensure fairness.

Charitable trusts and interests

The attorney general can also play a role in challenging a no-contest provision. If the will involves charitable trusts or charitable interests, and if there is an issue with how they are supposed to work, the attorney general can initiate actions to protect the interests of charitable entities.

Whether to challenge or not

Challenging a no-contest clause requires legal knowledge and building a solid case, especially since the consequences of failure can be the loss of their inheritance. This balanced approach ensures that the legal system can address legitimate concerns while upholding the principles of the will. It is important to understand the circumstances under which it is possible to challenge these clauses before going for it.