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Trusts and Estates

Trusts and Estates practitioners regularly wade into the turbulent waters surrounding the triggering of no-contest clauses found in last wills and testaments. In general, these clauses seek to discourage beneficiaries from challenging a will by disinheriting or severely limiting the inheritance of a beneficiary should such beneficiary decide to mount a challenge to the validity of the testamentary instrument. To be clear, New York law disfavors no-contest clauses and strictly construes their application, but courts will enforce the specific language so as not to contravene the intent of the testator. This differs from some states, such as Florida, where no-contest clauses are void as against public policy in both wills and trusts.

There are, however, certain statutory limitations to implementation of a no-contest clause in a will. Specifically, Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) 3-3.5(b) sets forth actions taken by a person interested in the will, which would not trigger a no-contest clause. These “safe harbor” provisions are as follows:

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