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Examining no-contest clauses

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2019 | Estate Planning |

People in Houston are encouraged to thoroughly plan out the administration of their estates in order to avoid contention and discord from arising amongst their beneficiaries once they are gone. No one wants their passing to push their family members and friends apart; rather, they want to such parties to come closer together following their departure. Yet no amount of planning is guaranteed to satisfy all those who might be party to one’s estate. One might think, then, that the only way to avoid contention over their estate is to eliminate the potential for it altogether.

Per data shared by the Texas Judicial Branch, the state’s probate courts heard over 15,100 cases unrelated to standard administrations in the 2014 fiscal year alone. That accounted for over one-third of their entire volume of cases. Among those had to include a good number of disputes and contests. One who does not want to see their estate case end up in such a situation may consider including a no-contest clause in their will. Such a clause would effectively disinherit a beneficiary if they decide to challenge the provisions of a will. Such clauses are typically meant to serve as deterrents to potential legal action amongst those that one might worry about seeking such action over their stake in an estate.

Many may argue, however, that one could be encouraging fraud and cases of undue influence by refusing to allow one to question estate decisions. That is why (according to Section 254.005 of Texas’ Estates Code), that a no-contest clause in a will is not enforceable if one contests a will in good faith and if evidence exists which supports the decision to do so.