To deter lawsuits, many individuals try to include in their will a clause referred to as a no-contest clause. Michael Jackson reportedly used one in his living trust. A no contest clause is designed to prevent beneficiaries in a will or trust from questioning any provisions therein. They only apply to those individuals who are actual beneficiaries under the will. These clauses threaten to disinherit anyone who sues the estate of the deceased, questioning the impropriety of the will. If a will is found to be unenforceable, then the estate will pass according to the laws of intestacy as if the Testator had no will. Those who lose a lawsuit brought to question the will and to have it invalidated, forfeit their right to any inheritance.
The two most common grounds for contesting a will or trust is undue influence, which refers to efforts by someone to coerce someone to sign estate-planning documents that favor him or her over others, and a lack of capacity of the Testator at the time he or she signed the document.
Most states recognize the enforceability of no contest clauses but Florida specifically prohibits them. Therefore, for any will executed in Florida where Florida law applies, courts will not honor no contest clauses. If you are concerned that a named beneficiary will contest your will or trust document, it is not a bad idea to include a no contest clause in your estate planning document. While these clauses are not enforceable, they could still be effective in deterring lawsuits by beneficiaries to dispute the document.