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No-contest clauses in New Jersey

On Behalf of | Jul 15, 2019 | Estate Administration

As one prepares their estate instruments in Ocean County, one thought that is almost certain to enter into their minds is the potential for their to be discord amongst their beneficiaries. Despite one’s best efforts, a person that is party to their estate could conceivably be unhappy with what they are left (or not left) and attempt to challenge the terms of their will. It might be recommended that in order to stop such a challenge from ever happening, one include a no-contest clause in their estate plans. 

A no-contest clause is language specifying a potential penalty that a beneficiary may incur if they challenge the terms of a will. Per the Cornell Law School, such a clause can even carry the threat of a person being disinherited altogether. The intent of no-contest clauses is to deter any challenges to an estate. Yet typically they are meant to address frivolous challenges. What about those cases where a challenge may be legitimate? 

The law recognizes that their indeed may be instances where the terms of an estate plan should be called into the question. Thus, it allows the person doing so to avoid triggering a no-contest clause if said person does indeed have probable cause to present a challenger. According to The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, 22 states follow the provisions set forth in the Uniform Probate Code that allow will contests without invoking no-contest clauses if probable cause to doubt the terms of a will exists; New Jersey is among them. Therefore, if evidence exists that one’s will was unduly influenced or that the settlor was not in a state of mind to make decisions regarding their estate, they can voice their concerns without the fear of their interests in the estate being affected.