How to Draft a Will With a No-Contest Clause

By Beverly Bird

If you expect that one of your beneficiaries is not going to be happy with what you left him in your last will and testament, you might consider adding a no-contest clause. Also called "in terrorem" clauses, they make your beneficiaries think twice before contesting or challenging your will. No-contest clauses state that your beneficiary gets nothing -- not even the gift you bequeathed him -- if he contests your will and loses in court.

Step 1

Check your state's laws regarding no-contest clauses. Not all states recognize them, and among those that do, some are more lax about enforcing them than others. For example, Florida courts won't honor a no-contest clause, so you're probably wasting your time including one. However, Virginia usually upholds them.

Step 2

Decide whether the clause really will act as a deterrent against will challenges, taking into consideration how much you're going to leave each beneficiary. For example, if you leave someone only $500, he doesn't have much to lose if he contests your will and loses everything. If you've left him $200,000, he may not want to risk that, even if he thinks he should have received more.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Step 3

Draft your will as you normally would, making your bequests. Include an extra paragraph for your no-contest clause. State that you have "intentionally and with full knowledge" made your bequests the way you have. State explicitly that if any of your beneficiaries -- the people named in your will to inherit your property -- contest it, their inheritance under the will is deemed forfeited. Alternatively, you can state that if any of your named beneficiaries challenge your will, that beneficiary will receive only a nominal amount, such as $5.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Contest a Will in Missouri


Related articles

Do You Have to Be a Lawyer to Write a Will?

You may write your own will in any U.S. state as long as you meet the state's requirements for those who write wills. You do not have to be a lawyer to write a will. However, consulting an attorney before writing your will or having an attorney write your will for you may be helpful, especially if you have a large estate, minor children or any questions about the process.

How to Make a Last Will Tape Recording

A recording of your last wishes does not constitute a valid will in any state, at least not when it stands alone. A great many individuals record their wills anyway, as a safeguard against will contests and other eventualities that might result in the probate court not honoring their bequests. Video- and audio-recorded wills generally enforce or back up your written will. If you don’t also leave a written will, most state courts will rule that you died without one.

How to Write a Will in Pennsylvania for Free

For your will to be legally enforceable in Pennsylvania, the document must satisfy all state statutory requirements. There is certainly no shortage of attorneys in Pennsylvania who can draft a will that fully complies with state law, but finding one who will draft it for free will be difficult. However, you can write your own will for free if you take the time to gain a solid understanding of the laws.

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

Related articles

Wills With No-Contest Clauses in Massachusetts

A will details the way the deceased person’s assets are to be distributed, but sometimes someone will try to contest, ...

How to Exclude People When Making a Will

Most states will not allow you to exclude your spouse from your will. According to the American Bar Association, this ...

Advice on Contesting Wills

A will contest or a will challenge is a court case brought to dispute the validity of a will, according to FindLaw. In ...

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 ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED