Your estate plan determines what resources your loved ones have access to after your death and outlines the legacy you leave. You may invest a considerable amount of time in the process of reviewing your assets and relationships to create an estate plan.
Unfortunately, some people’s intended legacies end up destroyed by the very people set to inherit from their estate. Your family members and estate beneficiaries could challenge your will, a process that would lead to hearings in probate court.
Estate litigation is often lengthy and expensive. The people you love will need to wait even longer for access to their inheritance, and a portion of what they should receive will end up going to pay for attorney representation in court time. Is it possible for you to prevent challenges against your last wishes by including a special clause in your estate plan?
No-contest clauses can make a big difference
The in terrorum or no-contest clause helps protect your estate plan exactly as you drafted it. Such a clause leaves your beneficiaries at risk of losing their inheritance rights if they challenge your will or estate without justification. Texas state law explicitly authorizes the use of no-contest clauses, which the state refers to as forfeiture clauses in the actual statute.
If someone brings a challenge against your estate, the probate courts could punish them for doing so by stripping them entirely of their inheritance rights. Only when someone acts in good faith and has probable cause to challenge your documents can they avoid the penalties you impose in a no-contest clause.
What other steps can you take?
Other than including rules that allow you to disinherit family members, there are a few other strategies that could reduce the conflict related to the administration of your estate. You could use a trust to arrange for the descent of specific property, which will be harder for someone to challenge than a simple will.
You could also take the time to talk about your estate plan with all of your close family members, including your beneficiaries, so that no one has unrealistic expectations about their inheritance when you die.
Recognizing that your legacy could end up undermined by the very people you hope to protect may inspire you to add a little extra protection to your estate plan.