Occasionally a family member or friend passes away with a Florida Will that gives less than expected to an heir of the decedent. This situation usually gives rise to an inquiry about a will contest. A will contest happens when the disgruntled heir challenges the will by suing the estate under some legal theory claiming the will is invalid. Will contests commonly happen when the testator attempts to leave a small amount to an estranged child or a large amount to someone who would not be expected to inherit under a Florida Will.
To guard against the potential of challenges to the will, you may see a No-Contest clause added by the testator. A no-contest clause is a provision of a will that penalizes the beneficiary who challenges the will, or the contestant. While these clauses may be valid in other states, Florida law specifically makes them unenforceable. According to the Florida Probate Code, “a provision in a will purporting to penalize any interested person for contesting the will or instituting other proceedings relating to the estate is unenforceable.” Furthermore, the Florida Trust Code, as amended in 2007, addresses no-contest provisions by making them unenforceable in any trust instrument. This does not mean that they should not be considered as they may be enforceable if one changes which laws the documents will be interpreted under.
The possibility that an estate could be tied up in Probate court for a long period of time is almost certain when there is a contestant of the will. Your beneficiaries will be prevented from receiving their money and assets for prolonged periods while at the same time the estate funds are being depleted by attorney’s fees. If you would like information on ways in which Florida residents can protect their assets from these will contests contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer today for guidance.