Can “Forfeiture” Clauses in Wills be Successfully Challenged?

Forfeiture clauses, also known as in terrorem clauses, are most effective when the person whom the testator (the person making the will) is most concerned about challenging the will has something to lose by making the challenge. As an example, if the testator says “I’m leaving black sheep son $1.00 and includes a forfeiture clause in his will, the net effect is that the only amount black sheep son has to lose by making a challenge is the $1.00 that was left to him. If he successfully challenges the will, he may get whatever share he might have had if the will did not exist (the share due him as a blood relative under the Texas laws of intestacy.) However, if black sheep son loses his challenge, then he will have lost only $1.00.

If the testator were to leave him, as an example, $15,000.00, then the son would have $15,000.00 at risk and may be far less likely to bring a legal challenge to the will because the no contest clause would state that anyone who challenges the will loses any gift otherwise made to that challenging person. Accordingly, it is unwise to think that a forfeiture clause will have any real effect in preventing a contest if the person bringing the contest has nothing to lose. Additionally, there are methods by which the spouse of the disinherited heir could bring a challenge and possibly not trigger the forfeiture clause. Accordingly, the most effective no contest clauses are those which are carefully drafted in light of the testator’s family and relevant circumstances.

Category : Will Contests

2 Comments → “Can “Forfeiture” Clauses in Wills be Successfully Challenged?”


  1. Jean Palmer
    7 years ago

    I have a question. My former husband adopted my biological child when she was three. He divorced me when she was twelve. He has not seen her since. He is extremely wealthy and I am certain he will not include her in his will except to disinherit her. What can we do about challenging his will; If anything. Do you have much success rate with challenging this type of situation. Thank You for Your Kind Attention
    Jean Palmer


  2. Jean Palmer
    7 years ago

    In Texas is it lawful to disinherit an adopted child.
    what are the chances of challenging his will
    He is eighty years old and extremely wealthy.