No Contest Clauses

No-Contest-ClausesEstate planning lets you envision your goals and make sure that you are taking the right steps to attain those goals.  There are many different instruments that may be helpful to you to help reach your goals, but almost every complete estate plan includes a last will and testament.  Like any other component of your estate plan, you want to make sure that your last will and testament is actually enforceable.  Without an enforceable will, your assets will be distributed according to the Minnesota laws of intestacy, which give no thought or notice to what you may have actually preferred.  To prevent potential heirs or beneficiaries from bringing a suit to set aside a will, some people consider adding a “no contest” clause to their will.

Note that a no contest clause does not prevent a person from filing a challenge to a provision or even the entire will. Instead, a no contest clause seeks to deter possible litigation by threatening that the litigant will inherit nothing if he or she files a contest to the will.  The purpose of the clause is to keep potential beneficiaries from filing frivolous actions in the hopes of forcing other beneficiaries to settle out of court.  With a no contest clause, even filing the action contesting the litigation will exclude the filing party from inheriting under the will.

In Minnesota, statute 524.2-517 directly addresses no contest clauses in wills.  The statute provides that a no contest clause is not enforceable if there is “probable cause” for bringing the suit challenging the will.  In other words, if the person filing the suit can prove that he or she has probable cause to bring the lawsuit, then he or she can still inherit, regardless of the terms of the no contest clause.  The legislature passed the law in recognition that there may be very valid incidents where a beneficiary under a will has very strong evidence that a will should be invalid due to fraud or coercion, for example, but is strongly deterred from filing to set aside a fraudulent will because of the no contest clause.  The Minnesota statute provides a measure of protection to these types of beneficiaries.

If you have questions about establishing paternity, call us today at (651) 371-9117.  We can talk with you about the process and how we can help you.

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