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in terrorem clause

(in tehr-roar-em)n. from Latin for "in fear," a provision in a will which threatens that if anyone challenges the legality of the will or any part of it, then that person will be cut off or given only a dollar, instead of getting the full gift provided in the will. The clause is intended to discourage beneficiaries from causing a legal ruckus after the will writer is gone. However, if the will is challenged and found to be invalid (due to lack of mental capacity, undue influence or failure to have it properly executed), then such a clause also fails. So a prospective challenger takes his/her chances. The courts have ruled that merely putting in a claim for moneys due from the estate is not a legal challenge to the will itself and is permissible without losing the gift.

See also: will  will contest 

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The People's Law Dictionary by Gerald and Kathleen Hill Publisher Fine Communications