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How does a no-contest clause work?

On Behalf of | May 17, 2024 | Estate Planning

If you expect “family drama” to break out after your death, you may be looking at ways to safeguard your wishes for your estate.

One legal tool at your disposal is called a “no-contest” clause. This is a clause in a will that says that any beneficiary who raises a dispute automatically forfeits whatever inheritance they were set to receive. While these clauses are not enforceable in every state, Nevada law is very specific. It says that no-contest clauses “must be enforced, to the greatest extent possible” as a matter of public policy

However, if you want a no-contest clause to be useful, you need to understand what it takes to make this an effective strategy.

Unless there’s something of value to lose, a no-contest clause won’t work

Imposing a no-contest clause is not the same as disinheriting someone. For a no-contest clause to be effective, you need to leave the problematic beneficiary (or beneficiaries) enough of an inheritance that they will have to weigh the risk against the potential gain. 

If you leave an expectant heir nothing at all (or so little that it amounts to nothing), there’s no incentive for them not to challenge your will. They have nothing to lose, and everything to gain if they happen to be successful.

Most of the time, that means making strategic decisions about what you are willing to leave a problematic heir in order to preserve the family peace for others. 

No-contest clauses are not the only way to avoid estate battles. With legal guidance specific to your situation, you can explore the use of trusts and direct beneficiary designations that will keep most or all of your assets out of probate, where challenges are harder.