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Do the Louisiana succession courts enforce no-contest clauses?

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2024 | Estate Planning

Avoiding succession court is sometimes the goal of a testator who drafts estate planning documents. They may try to make plans that keep as many of their assets out of court as possible. They may also include special terms in their documents to prevent their family members from taking legal action during the succession process.

In some cases, succession court proceedings are necessary for legal oversight. The Louisiana succession courts help ensure that the personal representative complies with state law and the instructions provided by the decedent. Other times, the Louisiana succession courts get involved in a succession case due to conflict. Family members or those expecting an inheritance from an estate may question the validity of estate planning paperwork or the actions of the personal representative.

Occasionally, people decide to take legal action. A contest against estate planning paperwork might lead to the courts upholding older documents or proceeding as though someone died without an estate plan. If a testator included a no-contest clause in their will or trust documents, litigation might endanger someone’s inheritance. Do the Louisiana succession courts uphold no-contest clauses?

Testators ultimately have authority over their estates in most cases

People who take the time to enact thorough estate plans theoretically have the right to decide on their own behalf what should happen with their assets. They can even impose conditions that can eliminate someone’s inheritance.

No-contest clauses or penalty clauses may reduce or eliminate the inheritance of someone who initiates probate litigation. The goal of such clauses is to prevent unnecessary fighting among family members or beneficiaries that could strain relationships and diminish the value of the estate. The Louisiana succession courts can potentially uphold no-contest clauses.

Cases involving no-contest clauses and probate litigation have helped establish precedent on this matter. Prior rulings have established that the right of the testator to control their legacy supersedes the desire of family members to question estate planning choices in many cases. The main exception is when a judge believes that someone initiated the contest in good faith. The disposition of an individual judge who hears a contested succession case may influence the likelihood of the courts enforcing a no-contest clause.

Learning more about Louisiana’s approach to litigated succession proceedings may benefit those with an interest in an estate. Those who intend to pursue a will contest may need to review their documents with a skilled legal team closely for their own protection.