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Are no-contest clauses enforceable in Missouri?

Posted on March 23, 2018

As you prepare your will in St. Louis, you no doubt have concerns about how your wishes will be received by your beneficiaries. The last thing that you want to do is cause contention amongst them (given, of course, that they not only share a relationship with you, but also likely with each other). However, you also want your desires regarding your estate to be respected. Some might suggest eliminating the potential for disputes by putting a no-contest clause in your will. Yet many states view such clauses as being unenforceable. Is Missouri among them?

The state’s stance on no-contest clauses in a will is described in Section 474.395 of Missouri’s Revised Statutes. Here, it defines a no-contest clause as being language the rescinds a donative transfer or fiduciary appointment to any of your beneficiaries that challenge the validity of all or part of your will. Such a clause can also terminate a beneficiary’s interest in your estate due to certain actions (which you must clarify). Enforceability of such a clause is left to the courts to determine on a case-by-case basis. The language of the statute implies that no-contest clauses shall be honored provided that they do not conflict with any applicable laws or public policies.

While your no-contest clause may be deemed valid, the law does not completely bar your beneficiaries from questioning the terms your will. It does indeed say that a beneficiary may petition the court to review if any questions or claims for relief would trigger the clause (and effectively disinherit him or her). If the court determines that it would not, he or she is permitted to go ahead with his or her motion challenging your will.