Definition: No-Contest Clause

Also known as an in terrorem clause, a no-contest clause is a clause that a testator can add to his or her will for the purpose of discouraging beneficiaries from contesting the will after the testator’s death. A typical no-contest clause states that a beneficiary who contests the will shall receive either nothing or have any gifts they would otherwise receive reduced to only a nominal amount, such as one dollar. A no-contest clause is likely to be upheld and enforced by courts in Washington unless the person challenging the will has probable cause to do so.

Washington courts have held that a person acting on the guidance of an attorney meets the probable cause requirement as long as he or she has fully and fairly laid out all material facts to the attorney.

Because a no-contest clause may discourage beneficiaries from bringing a will contest, adding a no-contest clause to a will may be helpful if, for example, the testator foresees a conflict between his or her beneficiaries, a conflict between a beneficiary and the person appointed as personal representative, or a likely contest of the will by a conflict-prone beneficiary.