Learn About No Contest Clauses Or In Terrorem Clauses In Texas

Contesting a will in Texas

Written by Robert Ray

Robert Ray handles inheritance disputes of all kinds. He takes cases throughout Texas.
Contesting a will in Texas

What is a no contest clause

Many wills and trust have no contest clauses, also referred to as in terrorem clauses. These basically say that anyone who contest the will or trust looses their inheritance under the will or trust. People are afraid that they will get nothing if they contest the will. 

Are no contest clauses enforceable?

Texas courts don’t like to enforce these forfeiture clauses if there is a reasonable way to avoid enforcement. Heirs getting nothing is not what courts want to see. There are only a handful of Texas cases that enforce these clauses. The majority of cases don’t enforce them. Many courts created a good faith exception. If a contest was brought in good faith, there was no forfeiture. In addition to the good faith exception, one court listed twelve items that do not trigger the forfeiture effects of a no contest clause:  (1) to recover an interest in devised property; (2) to compel an executor to perform duties; (3) to ascertain a beneficiary’s interest under a will; (4) to compel the probate of a will; (5) to recover damages for conversion of estate assets; (6) to construe a will’s provisions; (7) to request an estate accounting or distribution; (8) to contest a deed conveying a beneficiary’s interest; (9) to determine the effect of a settlement; (10) to challenge an executor appointment; (11) to seek redress from executors who breach fiduciary duties; and (12) presenting testimony in a will contest brought by other beneficiaries. 01-10-01019-CV.

The Texas legislature adopted the reasoning on good faith and recently updated the law on no contest or in terrorem clauses and the good faith issue.  The new law makes it easier to contest wills that have no contest provisions and voids in terrorem clauses in wills and trust if a contest of the will or trust was brought in good faith. In other words, even if the will provides for a forfeiture in the event of a will contest even one brought in good faith, the new legislation voids those provisions if the contest was brought in good faith. Because of this new law, your should not let the existence of a no contest clause in a will keep you from contesting a will if you are acting in good faith and with just cause. 

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Robert Ray is the Editor and owner of this site. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We handle cases throughout Texas. Our principal office is in Lantana, Texas (DFW area).

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A Texas will or trust can be reformed, in limited circumstances, based on a scrivener’s error (a mistake made by the attorney preparing the document as opposed to a mistake by the clients.)

Robert Ray

Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We handle cases all across Texas. Our principal office is in Lantana, Texas (DFW area).

Robert Ray is a Texas attorney who handles inheritance disputes

Why Us?

Inheritance disputes involve someone who has taken advantage of the elderly. These cases are complicated and most often, but not always, involve outsiders. We represent you knowing that these inheritance disputes are private and painful family matters. We know this is a stressful time for you. We strive to obtain the quickest and best results possible so that you can get this troubling episode behind you.


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