How No-Contest Clauses Work In Florida Probate Cases
There are very specific rules about preparing a will in Florida, and one of the most important requirements relates to the testator having sound mind to create one. Plus, by state law, a will is void if the surrounding circumstances indicate fraud, duress, mistake, or undue influence. As you might guess, when someone is unhappy with the will’s contents, these are the factors they often raise to have the will declared void during the probate process.
Will contests can be costly and time-consuming, so some testators attempt to avoid the hassles by inserting a no-contest clause. However, despite intentions that your will remains intact, these provisions may not lead to the results you expect. Florida law specifically addresses no-contest clauses, and a Dade City probate lawyer can explain how they affect estate administration. Some background information is also informative.
Summary of No-Contest Clauses: You invest time and effort to ensure that your will functions according to your intentions, from naming an executor to funding a living trust to distributing assets to beneficiaries. To protect the document from being attacked by a disgruntled party, some testators include a no-contest clause.
According to these provisions, a potential beneficiary or other interested party would be penalized if they dispute the validity of the will. Typically, the language would remove any distribution of assets to the beneficiary.
Florida’s Statute on No-Contest Provisions in a Will: There are a few US states that prohibit these clauses, which is logical in some ways. If there truly is something wrong with the will, someone should not be punished for disputing it. Under Florida’s law, a provision that purports to penalize an interested person for contesting the will is unenforceable.
As a side note, Florida statutes also cover no-contest clauses in trust agreements. If the grantor includes a provision that punishes someone for disputing the validity of the trust, it would not be enforced by courts.
Reasons You May Need to Address a No-Contest Clause: There are two scenarios that you might run into a no-contest provision during the probate process:
- The decedent prepared the will in another state that allows no-contest clauses, and then moved to Florida before passing away.
- The decedent knew the no-contest provision was unenforceable, but still included it to discourage others from disputing the will. This person may be betting on the fact that the interested parties do not know the law, so they will avoid bringing a will contest during the probate process.
With both scenarios, the Florida statute applies: No interested party can be punished for contesting the will.
Discuss Will Contests and No-Contests Clauses with a Florida Probate Attorney
This overview demonstrates that will contests could arise in a probate matter despite Florida law on no-contest clauses. To learn more, please contact The Law Office of Laurie R. Chane in Dade City, FL. You can call 352-567-0055 or visit our website to set up a consultation. We can explain how the statute applies to your situation and the implications for the estate administration process.