What Is a No-Contest Clause in a Will?

Gabriel Katzner - June 12, 2024 - Wills
What Is a No-Contest Clause in a Will?

If you are concerned that any of your beneficiaries may be disgruntled enough with their inheritance that they bring a legal challenge against your will, you can mitigate that possibility by adding a no-contest clause in your will.

If you have a no-contest clause in your last will and testament, anyone who disputes the validity of your will in court will end up with nothing if they lose their legal challenge.

If you are a named beneficiary and have grounds to contest the terms of a will, contact an experienced New York estate lawyer. It is important to fully understand the potential implications of contesting a will with a no-contest clause in it.

What is a no-contest clause in a will?

No-contest clauses can be incorporated into wills and trust documents. A will communicates your intentions regarding distributing your assets upon your death. A trust is an estate planning tool that holds your assets throughout your lifetime. Upon your death, your successor trustee will transfer the assets held in your trust to your beneficiaries, following the instructions in your trust document.

By incorporating a no-contest clause into your will or trust documents, you can discourage your beneficiaries from contesting your will or trust.

Why would someone contest a will?

Common reasons to contest a will include a claim that the testator (person who wrote the will) lacked testamentary capacity to write the will or trust or was under undue influence when writing the will or trust.

Adults are presumed to have the mental capacity to write a will. A will can be challenged if a beneficiary believes the testator lacked testamentary capacity. A testator must have the mental ability to execute a will for it to be valid.

The New York surrogate court will consider the following factors when determining whether a person has the testamentary capacity to execute a will:

  • Whether the decedent understood the nature and consequences of writing a will
  • Whether the deceased person was aware of the typical relationships that determine who inherits their property and assets, such as immediate family versus distant relatives
  • Whether the decedent knew the extent and nature of the assets that would be distributed in the will

Another reason a beneficiary may contest a will is that they believe the testator was under undue influence from another beneficiary when writing the will or trust. To prove undue influence, a beneficiary would need to show that the person writing the will or trust set forth provisions that were against their free will or desired intentions.

Other potential reasons for contesting a will include:

  • Revocation of the will
  • Failure to follow proper protocols for executing a will.
  • Undue execution
  • Fraud
  • Mistakes

Who can contest a will?

Only a person who has a financial interest in a will or trust can contest it. Someone who has been entirely disinherited by a will or trust cannot challenge the will or trust.

For example, suppose a testator had a long-term companion after the death of his wife and left half of his assets to his companion and the other half to his only surviving daughter. In that case, the daughter may contest the will. The daughter may claim that the companion had an undue influence on her father.

If the will had a no-contest clause and the court disagreed that her father’s companion had an undue influence or the daughter had insufficient evidence to support this claim, she risks losing her share of her father’s estate.

What are the pros and cons of a no-contest clause in a will?

A no-contest clause can deter beneficiaries from bringing a legal challenge to the will. This can help ensure that the will is executed precisely as the testator intended. It can also reduce the risk of increased court costs and delays in executing the will.

The biggest con to having a no-contest clause is that it makes it difficult for a beneficiary to seek recourse for an error in the will or trust.

Contesting a will increases court costs and results in less inheritance for the beneficiaries. It can also take a long time to resolve these claims, which delay the beneficiaries’ access to their inheritance. Each state may have specific requirements for a no-contest clause in a will or trust, and some states do not enforce no-contest clauses, so it is essential to consult with a New York estate attorney before writing or contesting a will.

Speak to a trusted advisor to help you develop your estate plan. Contact us and schedule a call with us at 855.631.3457 to learn more about how to protect those most important to you.

Gabriel Katzner

In 2002, Gabriel Katzner, the founding partner of Katzner Law Group received his Juris Doctorate with honors from the Fordham University School of Law. After spending the first 7 years of his legal career
practicing at Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, an international law firm based in New York, he went on to found his own firm.

Gabriel Katzner has a track record, along with a vast number of
outstanding public reviews across platforms, of working hard on behalf of individuals who need assistance with comprehensive
estate planning services. Finding a lawyer who is knowledgeable about revocable and irrevocable trust planning, guardianship for minor children, asset protection, trust administration and probate,
as well as Medi-Cal / Medicaid planning is extremely important.

Years of experience: More than 17 years
Location: San Diego, CA


This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. Furthermore, it has received approval from attorney Gabriel Katzner, an experienced estate planning lawyer with over 17 years of legal expertise.

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