When a loved one dies and leaves behind a detailed will or estate plan, they probably expect that their family members will abide by their wishes. However, there are situations where people decide to challenge the wishes of their loved ones because they suspect fraud or the influence of a third party.
Unfortunately, situations that involve fraud or undue influence might directly lead to the testator of an estate including a no-contest clause in their will that prohibits other people from challenging their wishes. Many times, such a clause will include penalties that could go all the way up to complete disinheritance for the individual challenging the estate plan.
If the estate will go through the Florida probate courts, do you have to worry about a no-contest clause reducing or eliminating your inheritance?
Florida has an unusual law about no-contest clauses
No-contest clauses, also sometimes called penalty clauses or in terrorem clauses, have been used for centuries to protect someone’s wishes against the squabbling of their family members and loved ones. They are often used by those who know there is a history of sibling fighting among their children or those who try to disinherit one family member, for example.
Since more people know about these clauses than in the past, however, the abuse of these clauses has become a more pressing concern. Unlike many other states in the country, Florida takes a dim view of no-contest clauses. There’s actually a law that prohibits the probate courts from enforcing such a clause regardless of circumstances. In other words, you can bring a challenge against your loved one’s estate even if they included such a clause because the courts will not strip you of your inheritance for doing so.
If you’re considering contesting a loved one’s estate plan, it’s wise to seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney.