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What is a no-contest clause and how does it work?

A will or a trust includes many essential provisions. One that often does not get as much attention as others is the no-contest clause, sometimes referred to as the forfeiture or terrorem clause. This provision, in a way, wants everyone to understand that the testator – the person who created the will – is clearly in charge,  wants to avoid disputes and penalize any beneficiary who seemingly stirs up trouble.

The no-contest clause is a provision that clearly states that any beneficiary who contests the will forfeits all assets they would have received. In other words, they are stricken from the will. So, in a way, a no-contest clause is comparable to a poison pill tactic relied upon by companies that want to prevent any hostile takeover attempts.

Prevents someone from contesting the will

Why would you want to have a no-contest clause in your will? The main reason is to prevent anyone from contesting the will. It represents a significant deterrent to a beneficiary who suspects that they did not receive their fair share of the estate. And, if they do contest the will, watch out because they likely will receive nothing.

No-contest clauses are enforceable in Illinois, but such scenarios, sometimes, are at the discretion of the court. And, of course, there are some exceptions.

However, a no-contest clause is not necessarily set in stone. In some situations, the possibility exists to override the clause. During probate, the court may determine that the beneficiary who contested the will had good cause to do so. A potential result from the judge is to invalidate the no-contest clause.