Having developed substantial assets over the course of your working life, you have every right to allocate those assets as you like. Solid estate planning, including the creation of a last will and potentially a trust, is key to building a legacy when you pass on. You can contribute money to charity, distribute your possessions to your loved ones or even deed property to the local government for public use.
Whatever your dream may be, it only takes one heir or family member to ruin your plans and your legacy. It is more common than you might think for people to contest the last wills and estate plans of their loved ones, even parents and spouses. There are steps you can take to prevent these issues, but one of the best is to create a no-contest clause in your last will or estate plan.
What is a no-contest clause?
If you aren't familiar with the term, a no-contest clause does exactly what you think it would. It penalizes heirs for contesting your estate and dragging it through probate. Some people reduce the amount of the estate someone will receive, while others decide to completely disinherit those who don't respect their last wishes.
The intention behind these clauses is to keep anyone who expects to receive more than their fair share from destroying the last will planned for the estate. It protects your wishes and your heirs from unnecessary complications.
How does Washington enforce no-contest clauses?
Every state has its own approach to estate and probate laws. Some states, like Florida, do not enforce no-contest clauses. Washington, on the other hand, enforces these clauses in almost all cases, without consideration of whether the person brought the contest in good faith or due to probable cause.
In other words, if your last will is legally sound and includes a no-contest clause, the courts in this state will uphold your wishes and penalize anyone who tries to challenge your last will.
Talking to your heirs can reduce the risk as well
If you feel worried enough about a potential contest to your will that a no-contest clause is a good idea, you should inform your heirs about using it. Talking about your will is a way to minimize or eliminate surprises. Informing your family, friends and loved ones of your decision to include a no-contest clause in your will helps reduce the chance that it will be necessary.
Anyone inspired by greed or a desire for assets will likely not risk losing his or her share of the inheritance to secure a larger portion of the estate. Including the clause and notifying your family of its existence is likely the simplest way to ensure your last will is respected after your death.