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Florida courts will not uphold no-contest clauses in last wills

Sep 26, 2018 | Probate & Estate Administration

If you have taken the time to create an estate plan, it’s likely because you have a legacy in mind. Whether you hope to donate some of your assets to charity or ensure that your children and grandchildren are cared for after you die, that legacy is often your final act. It will be part of how people remember you.

Of course, all of your effort and concern will go to waste if one of your family members or heirs successfully challenges your last will in court. That will mean that your entire state has to go through probate, and your last wishes may end up disregarded in favor of a different arrangement. It is perfectly normal to take steps to avoid these complications to your estate. However, there are limits to what you can legally do in Florida to protect your estate plan from a challenge.

Many people turn to no-contest clauses to protect their legacy

A no-contest clause is exactly what it sounds like. It is special language inserted into your estate plan that prohibits your heirs from contesting the terms of your last will. The vast majority of states allow testators to include these documents in their last will. However, Florida is not one of those states.

A large number of people move to Florida to retire, which means that Florida handles a large number of estates in probate court every year. There are sometimes predators who seek to prey on the vulnerabilities of aging adults and their families.

These individuals may exert undue influence on older adults, convincing them to adjust their last wills to include them, often at the expense of existing family members and heirs. By not upholding no-contest clauses, the Florida probate courts truly look out for the best interests of everyone involved.

This practice ensures that family members feel free to push back in situations where undue influence and other complications impact the estate. In other words, simply including a no-contest clause in your will in Florida will not stop any of your heirs or family members from challenging it.

Discussing your wishes with your family is the best option for avoiding conflict

Surprise or unmet expectations are some of the most common reasons that family members and heirs challenge a last will or estate plan in probate court. Taking the time to discuss your intended legacy with your loved ones in detail is the best way to avoid this outcome.

If everyone understands how you intend to divide your assets upon your death, your last will and estate plan will not be a surprise or shock to them. That can help reduce conflict among your heirs, as well as the potential for a challenge in probate court. By taking steps now to educate your family about your wishes, you not only reduce stress between family members after you die, but you also help protect your legacy and your wishes.