The Risk of No Contest Clauses
Compliments of Litherland, Kennedy & Associates, APC, Attorneys at Law
Written By: The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
When renowned fashion designer Oscar de la Renta died in late 2014, the assumption of many was his son, widow and her three children would receive similar – if not equal – inheritances. Instead, the designer’s son, Moises de la Renta received a very small inheritance (especially considering the size of his estate). Oscar de la Renta complicated things further for Moises when he instructed his attorney to include a no contest clause in his will. Is the paltry inheritance he recieved enough to prevent the younger de la Renta from tying up the estate in a lengthy court battle or is it sufficient enough for him to rethink any plans to contest the will at the risk of losing it all?
Moises was adopted by Oscar from an orphanage in Dominican Republic when Moises was two days old. Oscar raised Moises alone for the most part, though the elder de la Renta eventually remarried a woman who had three children of her own.
As Moises grew up, it became clear that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He launched his own line of women’s clothing, but instead of making his father proud, it resulted in a falling out between the two in 2005. Father and son didn’t speak for some time and judging from the estate’s details, it appears his father hadn’t forgiven him. Further, Moises’ fashion line never gained traction.
Many were surprised to learn of the no contest clause, which in effect states that any efforts to contest Oscar’s last will and testament can result in a total loss of Moises’ inheritance. In order for these types of clauses to really serve a purpose, there must be an incentive. For instance, if the younger de la Renta learned he’d inherit $10,000, it may not be enough of an incentive to remain quiet. He may be willing to lose $10,000 if there’s a possibility of successfully contesting the will. On the other hand, if his father left $500,000 to him, Moises could be less inclined to jeopardize that sum of money.
At the age of 82, Oscar had only recently signed his will in the final weeks of his life. His wife of 25 years, Annette, inherited most of her late husband’s material possessions and other assets, including a Park Avenue apartment valued at $13 million, a home in Connecticut worth nearly $3 million, and an estate in the Caribbean. The remaining assets were left in trust for his three stepchildren and his own son. It’s interesting to note that de la Renta’s widow and stepdaughter are co-executors of the estate; Moises plays no role.
To learn more about no contest clauses and how to reduce the risk of having your estate plan contested, we welcome the opportunity to help you explore your estate planning options.