Compared with other states, Florida has an unusually high population of retired people. The Sunshine State has become a destination for retirees thanks to the pleasant weather that can reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis conditions and other aging-related ailments in the many established communities and facilities that cater to retired adults.
The high percentage of retired and aging adults across Florida means that the state has to handle many estates and the challenges that come with them. In order to optimally protect Florida residents and their wishes, probate courts across Florida often employ a different approach in cases when testators attempt to restrict challenges against the last will or estate plan when compared with most other states in the country.
No-contest clauses are a popular estate planning tool
Many people who decide to challenge an estate plan or last will do so because they have legitimate reasons to worry about the validity of the will. Perhaps someone executed the documents while already experiencing cognitive decline, or maybe the last will has terms in it that reflect undue influence by a beneficiary or family member.
Sadly, some people bring frivolous challenges that resulted in the state going through probate unnecessarily, which can result in the diminishment of the value of the estate. In order to prevent those frivolous challenges, testators will include a no-contest clause that punishes or disinherits an individual for challenging their will. In most states, probate courts uphold these clauses. Florida probate courts, however, will not.
Allowing people to challenge an estate protects the wishes of the deceased
The inclusion of a no-contest clause often has a chilling effect on the heirs or beneficiaries of a last will. They may not bring a challenge even when they suspect that someone has inappropriately influenced the contents of the will or even committed outright fraud out of fear of losing their inheritance.
With a high population of retired people, Florida is an ideal hunting ground for predators who might intentionally take advantage of vulnerable older people. By refusing to uphold no-contest clauses, Florida effectively ensures that a testator’s true wishes can always have their day in court, regardless of what happens in their last years of life to affect the written terms of their last will.