Losing someone close to you is hard enough, but learning that their will is completely contrary to what they always told you it would be can be even worse. The inheritance that they always promised you may have included property that has real emotional value to you in addition to whatever financial value it represents. Now, someone else will receive that property instead of you.
If the will or other estate documents produced when your loved one dies are quite different from their lifelong estate plan or the wishes they discussed with the family previously, you may want to contest the will in the Washington probate court.
If they included a no-contest clause in the estate plan, will you lose your inheritance for taking action when you suspect fraud or undue influence?
There are limits to the enforcement of no-contest clauses
The Washington probate courts do not universally uphold or invalidate no-contest clauses. Instead, the courts must evaluate no-contest clauses on a case-by-case basis. Situations where the clauses violate state law will result in the courts invalidating the clause, if not the whole document.
If the person bringing the challenge can show that they did so in good faith because they had probable cause to suspect misconduct or a lack of testamentary capacity on the part of the testator, the courts may decline to enforce a no-contest clause. However, if you don’t have probable cause, meaning some kind of convincing evidence about your suspicions, you could very well lose your inheritance for challenging the estate plan in probate court.
Learning the details of Washington probate laws could make you feel more comfortable if you believe you need to pursue probate litigation.