What is the effect of a no-contest clause in a will?

Thorough estate planning means giving serious thought to how your assets will be distributed in your will. It’s your opportunity to have your final wishes fulfilled, as you see fit. To accomplish this goal, you may choose to include a no-contest clause, in hopes of preventing anyone from interfering with your directions. But you need to understand what a no-contest clause can, and cannot, do.

What’s the purpose of a no-contest clause?

A no-contest clause is a provision in a will which penalizes others if they attempt to challenge the will. For instance, let’s say you choose to leave a piece of real estate to a family member. But you worry that the family member may be unsatisfied with the decisions you made in the will. So they challenge it, in an attempt to get the court to overrule some, or all, of your will.

With a no-contest clause in place, its effect is to disinherit any of your beneficiaries who challenge your will. In this example, by bringing the challenge, your family member would be excluded from inheriting. They would not even get the real estate you intended to leave them.

There are limitations

In spite of your best efforts, a no-contest clause is not an absolute protection against challenges. For one thing, it only impacts named beneficiaries in your will. Anyone not named in your will can bring a challenge with no fear of being disinherited.

Beneficiaries, too, can challenge your will under certain circumstances, even in the presence of a no-contest clause. Colorado Statute Section 15-12-905 permits the challenge so long as the beneficiary has probable cause. Their reason must be valid – they cannot simply make something up in order to avoid the no-contest clause.

If you are considering including a no-contest clause within your will, speak to a professional who is experienced in Colorado estate planning. They can help to ensure that your will accomplishes your goals as thoroughly as possible.