30 Years Experience Representing Clients Like You
Some testators want to ensure their testamentary instruments stand exactly as written after their deaths and do not want the terms challenged in any way. Accordingly, they may include no-contest clauses in their wills and trusts. The purpose of a carefully drafted no-contest clause is to discourage disgruntled relatives from contesting the will or trust on any of the available grounds, such as lack of testamentary capacity or undue influence. Generally, the clause provides that anyone who loses a legal challenge to the will or trust won’t inherit anything. If you believe you have grounds to contest the terms of a will or trust, it is critical to retain an experienced New York City estate litigation attorney who can counsel you about your particular situation and the potential consequences of particular provisions of a testamentary instrument in which you have an interest. Jules Haas may be able to represent you.No-Contest Clauses
No-contest clauses are designed to prevent relatives from bringing a will or trust contest after a decedent’s death. They are provisions written to specify that if an interested person brings a contest and loses, he or she won’t inherit anything. Generally, these clauses only work to discourage people who are beneficiaries of a will or trust, and who therefore have something to lose, whether an inheritance or other rights, by filing a contest in court. For example, if an unmarried decedent left 75% of his estate to his girlfriend and 25% to his daughter, whom the daughter disliked, a no-contest clause might discourage his daughter from challenging the will’s validity and its bequest to the decedent’s girlfriend. The daughter might have some reasons to suspect the girlfriend used undue influence, which is one of the grounds for a will contest, but if the court disagreed with her, or she had insufficient evidence to win, she’d face the risk of getting nothing at all.
In contrast, a no-contest clause will not have an impact on someone who has been entirely disinherited by a will or trust. For example, if the daughter in the foregoing example were completely disinherited by a will, she’d lose nothing by bringing a will contest alleging that the girlfriend used undue influence on the decedent to get him to disinherit his daughter.Do No-Contest Clauses Bar Every Challenge to a Will or Trust in New York City?
Under New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 3-3.5, no-contest clauses are valid and enforceable whether or not you have probable cause to bring a will contest. A condition that qualifies a disposition is valid even if the decedent didn’t specify an alternative gift in case the condition was breached. The statute also provides that someone who is incompetent or an infant may oppose probate of the will or administration of a trust and not face adverse consequences, regardless of the existence of a no-contest clause.
Furthermore, these clauses do not apply to an interested person’s objection to the probate court’s jurisdiction. Disclosing information related to the will does not result in forfeiture of a benefit under the will. An interested party may engage in pre-objection discovery under Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act Section 1404. Such a preliminary examination won’t result in forfeiture of benefits.
No-contest clauses also can’t be used to coerce. For instance, a no-contest clause would not be enforceable if it instructed a beneficiary to be disinherited because she provided documents relevant to probate or refused to join a petition to probate a particular will as the last will.Consult a Seasoned New York City Lawyer
Contesting a will that contains a no-contest clause can be a difficult decision that demands understanding of complex legal matters. You should seek counsel from a knowledgeable attorney. If you need to challenge a will or trust, you should discuss your case with New York City lawyer Jules Haas who has 35 years of experience. His clients live in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, as well as Kings, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. Call us at (212) 355-2575 or complete our online form. He provides a free case review and offers reasonable fee arrangements.