When a loved one dies, it can very difficult on the surviving friends and family members. The intense emotions of dealing with the loss can often make a grieving family member act in ways that would be otherwise uncharacteristic, leading to serious disputes over a variety of matters. A common point of contention is the deceased person’s will, and serious battles can affect the stability of a family for years to come, if not permanently. In an effort to prevent such issues from tearing apart your family after your death, you may wish to consider including a no-contest clause in your will.
In Terrorem Provisions
A no-contest clause is also known as an in terrorem clause, which is a Latin phrase meaning “by way of threat.” Such a clause may be included in your last will and testament to deter beneficiaries from formally contesting the will. Most no-contest provisions specify that if an heir files a contest to the will, that heir will automatically forfeit the portion of the estate intended for him or her. The idea is that, if there is a threat of receiving nothing, or a nominal amount like $5 or $10, a would-be heir is not likely to push for more. It is important to understand that a no-contest clause cannot stop an heir from contesting a will; its only potential impact is to what may happen as a result.
Contests Are Possible Anyway
Before deciding to include a no-contest clause in your will, you should meet with an attorney to discuss your particular circumstances. In some cases, the amount intended for specific heirs may not be leverage enough for such a clause to serve as an effective deterrent. For example, if you have a large number of beneficiaries each set to inherit $1,000, an heir might be willing to gamble with that amount to try an obtain a larger inheritance. If the original amount is $100,000, an in terrorem provision may be more effective.
Concerns in Illinois
The law concerning the enforcement of no-contest clauses is rather vague in the state of Illinois. At least one court has set aside a no-contest provision on the grounds that the will contest was filed in good faith on the part of the heir. However, by closely with an attorney and employing the proper language in your will, you will be more likely to ensure that your wishes are carried out regarding your estate.
If you are listed as an heir in a will with a no-contest clause, but you have reason to believe the will was not properly executed, contact an experienced Illinois probate law attorney. We will review your case and help you identify your best option under the law. Call 708-518-8200 today schedule your free consultation and get the representation you need during a difficult time.