A no-contest clause (NCC), also known as in terrorem clause, is a provision added by the testator of a will which deprives a beneficiary of a legacy if they challenge the will after the testator’s death.
The enforceability of a no-contest clause varies by state. Most states generally enforce NCCs if the action of the beneficiary falls within the actions prohibited by the no-contest clause. Most states also recognized the “probable cause” exception to the enforceability of the no-contest clause. A probable cause means that the beneficiary had reasonable belief that his claim was meritorious when it was filed. For example, in this case from Georgia, the Court decided that the probable cause exception is not applicable. However, beneficiaries can seek a court judgment as to whether a challenge would trigger a no-contest clause of the will; see Hunter v. Hunter, 298 Va. 414, 419 (Va. 2020).
[Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]