Monday, May 24, 2010

No Contest Clauses in Virginia: The Latest

I've posted previously about Virginia law regarding no-contest clauses in wills and trusts. As I wrote before, the Virginia Supreme Court has held specifically that such clauses are valid in wills and trusts, and should be "strictly enforced."

A Virginia Circuit Court recently enforced a no-contest clause (formally called an in terrorem clause) in a will and held that a beneficiary (wife) who challenged the will of her late husband was entitled only to $100, rather than the significant amount she would have inherited under the will she challenged. Ouch. The dispute involved a stepmother and her stepsons in multiple lawsuits over the husband/father's estate that went on for several years and made a trip to the Virginia Supreme Court. The procedural history of the dispute is fairly complicated, and her attacks on the will were indirect, but the Court found that she nevertheless was trying to get more than (and therefore dispute) what she was entitled to under the will.

The point is that if you are going to challenge a will in Virginia that has a no-contest clause, you better have a good case, or you could go through a lot of effort and end up with little or nothing (and have spent a good amount in legal costs).