Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Preventive Medicine - No Contest Clauses

If you anticipate the probability of someone challenging the validity of your Trust and/or Will, what can you do? For example, you desire to disinherit or greatly reduce the inheritance of a child, but you believe if you do so, the child will almost certainly challenge the validity of the Trust and Will in a Court of law. There are a number of preventive things you can do, but one of the most common estate planning tools in this situation is a “no contest clause”. A no contest clause is a provision in a Trust and Will that essentially provides that anyone challenging the validity of the terms of the Trust and Will shall be disinherited and shall receive nothing. Nevada Courts recognize the validity of a no contest clause; however, Nevada Courts, as Courts in most states, will not enforce a no contest clause if the Court finds that the challenge was made in good faith based on probable cause. The Court realizes that there will be cases where in fact there are legitimate challenges questioning whether the person making the Trust and Will had the ability (testamentary capacity) to do so, whether the person was under the undue influence of someone at the time, et cetera.

You should always state in the Trust or Will that you are intentionally omitting a person as a beneficiary if that person is someone who would be considered a natural object of your bounty such as a child. However, it is usually not a good idea to explain why you are disinheriting or reducing the share of the person in the provisions of the Trust or Will. An example would be to state that the person uses or is addicted to illicit drugs or is addicted to gambling. This opens the door to the argument that the person was not using or addicted to illicit drugs or addicted to gambling and that you made the Trust or Will based on this incorrect belief (often referred to as an “insane delusion”), or the argument that the person is no longer using or addicted to illicit drugs or gambling at the time of your death, or similar arguments.

One thing to keep in mind is the old axiom that “greed can be a wonderful thing” in certain situations. Needless to say, someone who is completely disinherited has nothing to lose in challenging the validity of a Trust or Will. On the other hand, a person who is left something, even if minimal, under the terms of the Trust or Will potentially can lose it all in bringing a Court challenge. This, at a minimum, tends to give one pause in bringing such an action.

The attorneys at Jeffrey Burr Law Office have many years of experience in not only planning your estate in this situation, but also in upholding your wishes as expressed in your Trust and Will once you are gone.

 - Attorney John Mugan

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