Court of Appeal Affirms Order Enforcing No Contest Clause, Making New Law On The Probable Cause Standard

A trust beneficiary filed and litigated a trust contest, despite multiple warnings that the contest was barred by Probate Code section 16061.7’s 120-day deadline and that if the trust beneficiary continued to press the contest, her interest in the trust would be invalidated under the trust’s no-contest clause.  The trial court sustained GMSR’s client’s demurrer to the untimely contest and enforced the no-contest clause.

The Court of Appeal’s published opinion addressed an issue of first impression concerning the interpretation of Probate Code section 21311, which governs the enforcement of no-contest clauses.  These are provisions in wills and trusts that disinherit beneficiaries who “contest” the instruments on certain grounds; they can be enforced only against beneficiaries who lack “probable cause” to assert the contests.  The court held that plaintiffs who file time-barred contests lack “probable cause” to believe that the requested relief will be granted, and that no-contest clauses can therefore be enforced against them.  The court adopted GMSR’s statutory interpretation based on text and legislative history, as well as its arguments distinguishing the Probate Code’s probable cause standard from the probable cause standard that is applicable to malicious prosecution claims.

Court of Appeal Opinion:  Meiri v. Shamtoubi (2022) 81 Cal.App.5th 606 [Second District, Division 3].

Today, following GMSR’s longtime tradition, we turned on the “Pink Light” to celebrate our clients’ win.