When a grantor executes a trust or will, he or she may choose to include a forfeiture or no-contest clause to discourage frivolous contention in the future. These clauses are aimed at ensuring that people who contest a trust or will do so only for valid reasons. Forfeiture and no-contest clauses are given due respect in court, and if a challenger is found to lack probable cause to bring the action, the existence of these clauses can ensure that the challenger loses their rights or inheritance. The Nashville estate planning lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC assist clients in executing a trust or will as well as in contesting either of these instruments. We represent individuals throughout Williamson and Davidson Counties.Forfeiture and No-Contest Clauses
A will or trust may include a forfeiture or no-contest clause in order to dissuade future beneficiaries from taking unnecessary legal action. Under Tennessee law, a no-contest provision is intended to reduce or eliminate a beneficiary’s interest in a trust if he or she initiates or pursues an action to contest its validity, tries to set aside or vary its terms, challenges the acts of the trustee, or takes any other action that seeks to frustrate the settlor’s intent as expressed in the trust’s terms. The law further states that these provisions shall be enforceable regardless of whether a beneficiary took action in good or bad faith. However, certain exceptions to enforceability exist, including when a beneficiary takes action with probable cause to believe any of the following existed:
- Lack of testamentary capacity when the trust was executed,
- Undue influence,
- Fraud or duress,
- Mistake, or
Forfeiture clauses contained in wills act in a similar manner. Sometimes forfeiture or no-contest provisions may be deemed invalid, especially when the terms of the will or trust as a whole are questionable due to fraud, duress, or another unscrupulous practice. If a beneficiary is successful in his or her will or trust contest action, forfeiture clauses are deemed null along with the rest of the instrument. In situations in which a will is found to be invalid, the property and assets are distributed based on a previous valid will. When no previous document exists, the property is then distributed under Tennessee probate law guidelines. In trust actions, a trustee may be replaced, or a trust may also be invalidated.Consult a Knowledgeable Nashville Lawyer for Your Estate Planning Needs
If you need assistance with a matter involving a will or trust, the Nashville estate planning attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC can represent you in asserting your rights. We can carefully explore the details of your situation and advise you on whether challenging the terms of a document may be appropriate or on crafting a will or trust to discourage the possibility of inappropriate litigation among its beneficiaries. We also represent people in Franklin, Brentwood, Cool Springs, Sylvan Park, and other communities across Davidson and Williamson Counties. Call us at 615-800-7096 or contact us online to set up an appointment with an experienced probate attorney.