It is always the best policy to have your will, trust, and other estate planning documents drafted by an experienced estate planning and probate attorney. A qualified lawyer can help you avoid critical legal errors that may present challenges for your family during the probate process. While this is certainly the best practice, some people inevitably choose to draft their own wills.
Additionally, in a growing number of estate plans, we find that individuals, for one reason or another, choose to disinherit certain family members. I have consulted with a number of clients who believe that leaving a beneficiary a nominal amount – such as $1 – instead of nothing can prevent them from challenging the will. I can assure you that this is untrue. Not only is it untrue, but the consequences of leaving someone $1 can be very costly to the effective administration of an estate.
What Is a No-Contest Provision?
A “no-contest provision” in a will document purports to cancel a distribution or donative transfer to a beneficiary if that person challenges the contents of a will. However, in Florida, a no-contest provision in a will is unenforceable. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. §732.517, “[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.” Therefore, a no-contest clause cannot be used to prevent a beneficiary from challenging a will during probate administration.
Am I Considered an “Interested Person?”
Furthermore, within a probate proceeding, any “interested person” must be notified of the probate administration and has certain rights to inventories and certain other probate filings. Fla. Stat. §731.201(23) defines an interested person as “any person who may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the particular proceedings involved…[t]he meaning, as it relates to particular persons, may vary from time to time and must be determined according to the particular purpose of, and matter involved in, any proceedings.”
As you can see, Florida’s current definition of an interested person in a probate proceeding is not very clear. While it is questionable whether a disinherited beneficiary satisfies the definition of an “interested person,” a beneficiary who inherits even $1 would be considered an interested person per Florida law. Therefore, they must be notified about certain information and proceedings inherent to the probate process.
Since they are not going to be happy to receive $1 or some other nominal amount, these beneficiaries will likely have no moral compunctions about creating obstacles to make the probate administration more difficult for the true interested parties.
In our experience, probate administration takes much longer to complete when these beneficiaries are involved. Therefore, it is not recommended to leave any beneficiary $1. If you do not want them to inherit, saying so specifically in the will is the best policy.
Start Drafting Your Estate Plan Today
Contact the attorneys at Powell, Jackman, Stevens & Ricciardi, P.A. if you have questions about the estate planning process or are ready to start drafting your customized documents. Our legal team can help you develop or modify a comprehensive estate plan that protects your best interests.
Contact Powell, Jackman, Stevens & Ricciardi, P.A.at (239) 970-6844 to explore your legal options.