Will Kentucky probate courts uphold a no-contest clause?

On Behalf of | Oct 5, 2023 | Probate

Probate is necessary for many estates in Kentucky. The courts will often oversee the distribution of someone’s assets if they die without a will or have particularly valuable personal property in their estate. However, estates generally only require probate litigation when something goes wrong. Provided that someone took the time to carefully plan for their estate before passing, their will should govern what happens after they die.

Someone’s testamentary documents should clearly state who should receive which property from their estate, and the personal representative handling estate administration should follow those instructions. Family members will ideally want to see the exact wishes of their loved one who died upheld during estate administration. Unfortunately, many families may end up fighting over someone’s estate even when an individual’s wishes have been articulated clearly.

Testators worried about that exact scenario may include no-contest clauses in their paperwork. A no-contest clause will eliminate someone’s inheritance if they attempt to contest someone’s will in probate court.

The courts will enforce the deceased’s wishes

Every state has different statutory rules about estate plans and probate proceedings. The rules for no-contest clauses are different in every state. In some states, like Florida, the courts usually refuse to uphold no-contest clauses. Other states will enforce no-contest clauses in the event of probate litigation. However, whether or not to enforce that clause will fall to the discretion of the judge. In cases involving a contest brought with probable cause or in good faith, a judge might decide not to enforce a no-contest clause.

That will not be possible in Kentucky. The courts generally enforce no-contest clauses without consideration of probable cause or good faith. If a testator left instructions to eliminate the inheritance of someone who initiates probate litigation to challenge their documents, then the courts will likely enforce those wishes.

Both the person serving as the personal representative of an estate and those worried about the validity of estate planning documents should understand the impact litigation may have on the estate administration process. Reviewing documents for a no-contest clause can help someone determine whether challenging the estate would be a worthwhile endeavor or simply a way to lose their inheritance.