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Opinion Issued on “No-Contest” Provision

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion involving a will that contained a “no-contest” provision.  The will in question contained a “no-contest” provision which provided that if any beneficiary under the will contests the validity of the will by filing suit against the executor, any share to such beneficiary under the will is revoked and shall be disposed of in the manner provided under the will if the contesting beneficiary and all descendants of that beneficiary have predeceased the testator.last will and testement no-content

After the testator’s death, a beneficiary under the will filed a petition to set aside the will based on lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.  A motion was filed to revoke the beneficiary’s share in the estate based on the violation of a “no-contest” provision.  Such motion was granted by the district court.

The Court of Appeals in reviewing the law governing “no-contest” provisions, stated that “our common law holds that no-contest provisions will not be enforced against one who contests the will in good faith and for probable cause”.  The Court went on to state that the good faith and probable cause standards overlap and must be examined together.

The Court noted that the testator included a provision in his will explaining the disproportionately large share of assets given to one of the children.  The attorney for the testator testified that the testator was concerned about the financial difficulties of the child who filed the will contest.  The Court went on to note that no medical evidence was presented which showed the testator’s mental capacity at the time he executed the Will.  The Court noted that the attorney who handled the execution of the will testified that the testator was of sound mind when the will was executed.  The Court held that the beneficiary failed to establish good faith and probable cause for filing the will-contest.

The will also named a specific bequest of $5,000 to the son of the beneficiary who contested the will.  The Court found that the son was an interested party whose stake was challenged in the district court action.  The Court did make a distinction that the son did not make a decision to join his father’s challenge under the Will and due to such fact, the Court concluded that the son did not exercise bad faith or unreasonable belief, directly or indirectly, and that his interests should not be forfeited.