Posted by Dana Law Group on July 15, 2022
Many estate holders create a will for the sole purpose of making sure that their estate gets distributed among their surviving beneficiaries according to their wishes. Unfortunately, even this necessary and sensible step can’t guarantee a smooth transfer of assets. If your friends and family members dispute the will, your estate can get tangled up in a probate court for an extended period, creating chaos and confusion instead of preventing it as you’d hoped it would. If you want to avoid this nightmare scenario, give serious thought to adding a no-contest clause to your Arizona will.
A no-contest clause states, in clear and indisputable terms, that any beneficiary who mounts a protest over their share of your estate (as specified in your will) will end up losing whatever they stood to inherit. Attorneys often refer to this punitive safeguard as an in terrorem or penalty clause. It’s meant to discourage inherits from getting into squabbles over their shares of the estate that might end up damaging relationships and/or tying up the estate’s final distribution in court.
Bear in mind that a no-contest clause only applies to individuals who stand to inherit at least something from your estate. A fully disinherited individual technically has nothing to lose (apart from legal and administrative fees) from contesting the will. It mainly serves to enforce the various distributions among named beneficiaries to ensure a smoother, faster probate process.
Different U.S. states maintain their own policies regarding no-contest clauses in wills. For instance, Indiana and Florida don’t recognize the validity of no-contest clauses at all. Many other states, including Arizona, view no-contest clauses as enforceable while making exceptions under certain circumstances. In Arizona, individuals with probable cause (such as doubts over the estate holder’s mental condition at the time of the will’s creation) may contest a will without penalty, even if that individual doesn’t win the argument. By contrast, a frivolous dispute would cause the individual to lose any forthcoming inheritance.
Whether you plan on adding a no-contest clause to your current Arizona will or you need to create an Arizona will with a no-contest clause from scratch, you should make absolutely sure your document will communicate your wishes precisely and stand up to scrutiny in court. Dana Law Group can provide expert assistance and guidance in preparing this critical element of your estate plan. Contact our team today.