State law changes enacted in 2010 have restricted the enforceability of no-contest clauses. Under Prob C §§21310–21311, a typical no-contest clause providing that an unsuccessful contestant gets nothing from an estate or trust is enforceable only against a “direct contest” brought without probable cause on specified grounds. And even if it is enforceable, a no-contest clause may not be an effective deterrent if the beneficiary thinks the amount at stake is outweighed by the benefit of a successful contest.
Updated: The bankruptcy court in In re Sherr (Bankr ND Cal, Sept. 27, 2016, No. 16-10283) 2016 Bankr Lexis 3521 has held that the exemption for “retirement funds” applies to inherited IRAs under California law.
The law says that retirement funds are exempt property in bankruptcy, but the Supreme Court has held that this exemption doesn’t apply to inherited IRAs. End of story? Not quite.