Wills With No-Contest Clauses in Massachusetts

By Heather Frances J.D.

A will details the way the deceased person’s assets are to be distributed, but sometimes someone will try to contest, or challenge, the will if he does not receive the inheritance to which he believes himself entitled. Consequently, you can insert a clause in your will to discourage challenges to the will’s validity, perhaps making a challenger think twice before acting.

A will details the way the deceased person’s assets are to be distributed, but sometimes someone will try to contest, or challenge, the will if he does not receive the inheritance to which he believes himself entitled. Consequently, you can insert a clause in your will to discourage challenges to the will’s validity, perhaps making a challenger think twice before acting.

No-Contest Clauses

A no-contest clause, also called an “in terrorem” clause, is meant to discourage challenges to the will by preventing challengers from receiving benefits from the will. Thus, if you deliberately give one child a larger inheritance than the other, the child with the smaller inheritance may avoid challenging the will in fear that he will lose even the small inheritance and be left with nothing. Massachusetts enforces these clauses, but Massachusetts courts will not punish a challenger if his challenge is successful.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Interested Persons

To challenge a will at all, you must have standing, meaning you must have some interest in the outcome of the challenge. Often, this limits challengers to those who were beneficiaries under a prior will that gave them better rights or those who would inherit under Massachusetts law if there was no will. For example, if you left half your estate to your brother in a previous will but left nothing to him in your most recent will, he would have standing to challenge your will. On the other hand, if you never named your friend in any will, he would not have standing to challenge your current will since he does not stand to gain from a successful challenge.

Grounds and Proof

An interested person can contest a will on any grounds that would make the will invalid. For example, if the deceased person may have been mentally incompetent at the time the will was signed, you could base your challenge on his lack of capacity to sign. Similarly, if the deceased person was in a weakened state and was under pressure from a caregiver to change his will, you could contest the new will based on the undue influence of his caregiver. The standard of proof in a will contest is “preponderance of the evidence,” which means that there must be more evidence supporting your challenge than there is evidence against it.

Successful Claims

A no-contest clause does not mean you cannot bring a challenge. Rather, it means you will lose your share of anything you may have received under the will unless your challenge is successful. Thus, it may be to your advantage to thoroughly assess your risk of losing before you bring a contest. For example, if you received far less under the new will than you would have received under the old will, it may be worth the risk to contest the will. If the difference is only slight, it may not justify gambling on a challenge.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
Children's Rights in Estate Wills

References

Related articles

Contesting a Will as a Beneficiary

Will contests take place in probate court: One of the functions of probate court is to hear any disputes pertaining to the execution of a will. A beneficiary who seeks to contest a will must have verifiable grounds upon which to do so. If a probate court deems the evidence sufficient, it may declare the entire will invalid or merely strike certain provisions.

Can a Sister-In-Law Contest a Will?

A will contest is the legal procedure for challenging a will. In most states, only those having a pecuniary interest in the will may object to it. Under this rule, a testator's sister-in-law may contest the will only if she stands to inherit more money if the court invalidates the challenged will or provision of the will.

How to Invalidate a Last Will & Testament

A will contains an individual's final wishes. As a result, any attempt to invalidate it must meet a high standard of proof to succeed in court. Further, some wills contain a no-contest clause in which any beneficiary who attempts to contest the will's validity automatically forfeits the share of property bequeathed to him under the will. To challenge a will's validity, you must follow the probate laws of the state handling the decedent's estate.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Can Wills Be Contested?

Wills can be contested, but the process is subject to complex laws that vary from state to state. If you believe you ...

How to Contest a Will in Missouri

Your will leaves instructions for your loved ones regarding how you want your property distributed, and your loved ones ...

How to Contest a Fraudulent Last Will

The probate process is designed to ensure that only valid, accurate wills are enforced by court orders and as such, ...

Law on Contesting Will Time Limit in California

You can contest a will in California, but you must petition the probate court as soon as possible. California permits ...

Browse by category