As you work through your estate plan, your hope is that those you leave behind in Pittsburgh will respect your decisions. Yet, making everyone happy (especially when it comes to the matter of an inheritance) can be difficult. Should one of your beneficiaries question the validity of your Will, working through the dispute can be a long, drawn-out process, depriving others of what you have earmarked for them an potentially eating away at your estate’s funds. Some might say that it is best, then, to include a no-contest to deter anyone from challenging your will. Could such a move work?
It depends on the motives of whomever is making the challenge. A no-contest clause can reduce or eliminate one’s stake in an estate if they question the testator’s wishes. Threatening your beneficiaries with being disinherited might serve to confirm how resolute you are in your wishes being respected (it may also show how much you hope to avoid any conflicts amongst your beneficiaries). However, there may situations where a no-contest clause in considered to be unenforceable.
Section 2521 of the Pennsylvania Probate, Estates and Fiduciaries Code (Pennsylvania’s state statutes) says that your no-contest clause will not be enforced if whomever is challenging your Will has probable cause to do so. Say, for example, that one of your beneficiaries believes that someone close to you towards the end of your life is in a position to exert undue influence over your wishes. The court may view such a concern as being valid, and thus may allow an investigation to determine if it is indeed so without triggering the no-contest clause. Similarly, even if the concerns of whomever challenges your will are proven to be wrong, they may still not be affected by a no-contest clause if it is determined their questions were supported by probable cause.