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Can you add a clause to your will to prevent probate challenges?

The instructions in your will ultimately determine how people remember you and the long-term impact you have on their lives. You may have invested a lot of time and effort into creating a thoughtful, appropriate estate plan. Everything from personal relationships to medical issues might influence how you decide to leave your property for your children, grandchildren and even your spouse.

However carefully you plan, the risk is always there for someone in your inner circle to challenge your last wishes and force your estate through probate. If that happens, a significant portion of your legacy could go toward attorney costs, and someone whose inheritance you wanted to limit could end up becoming a major beneficiary from your estate.

Can you add a clause to your will to prevent someone from challenging it?

Most of the time, Minnesota probate courts will uphold no-contest clauses

For as long as people have tried to leave behind meaningful legacies for their loved ones, there have been family members complaining that they didn’t receive enough from the estate. Although the probate courts require legal grounds to challenge someone’s will or estate plan, jilted beneficiaries can sometimes fabricate complaints in the hopes of forcing a settlement or securing a larger portion of the estate during the probate challenge.

Testators can add a no-contest clause to their last will to protect their wishes in this situation. If a beneficiary challenges their written wishes, that action triggers the no-contest clause. The person who brings the challenge could lose part of their inheritance or their right to inherit anything from the estate at all.

Typically, Minnesota probate judges will uphold such clauses. However, there is an exception. A judge should not apply the clause to someone who has probable cause for bringing a challenge against the estate. Probable cause would likely involve some kind of compelling evidence of fraud, undue influence or lack of testamentary capacity.

Careful planning can help you reduce the risk of conflict

If you chose to limit one family member’s inheritance because of their history of criminal activity or gambling issue, you don’t want that person’s petulant behavior affecting what your other loved ones inherit.

Thoughtfully including the right terms in your estate plan can reduce the likelihood of probate complications after you die. Talking with your family about your wishes can also reduce the potential of an unnecessary challenge diminishing your legacy.

Thinking ahead when drafting your will could help you prevent conflicts before they even arise.