In Terrorem Clause Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of In Terrorem Clause, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is In Terrorem Clause?

To threaten or in fear It is a clause mentioned in the will wherby it is stated that no beneficiary or donee should challenge the Will for its validity and that if he/she does so and looses the legal battle, not even the mentioned legacy of his/her part will be given to them. Such clause is mentioned in the Will by the Will writer to threaten anyone from fighting a legal case incase of disappointment of the declared Will.

History and Meaning of In Terrorem Clause

The legal term "In Terrorem Clause" originates from Latin and translates to "in fear" or "by way of threat." It is a clause that is commonly mentioned in a will, stating that if any beneficiary challenges the validity of the will in court and loses, they will receive nothing. The main objective of this clause is to deter beneficiaries from contesting the will.

The In Terrorem Clause dates back to Roman law. In early Roman times, those who contested a will had to pay a penalty or forfeit their inheritance. The clause was later introduced in the Western legal system during the Middle Ages, and it has since become a common practice in modern wills.

Examples of In Terrorem Clause

  1. John's grandfather left him a substantial amount of money in his will. However, the will included an In Terrorem Clause stating that if John contested the validity of the will, he would forfeit his inheritance. This clause deterred John from taking any legal action.

  2. When Mary's father passed away, his will stated that any beneficiary who challenged its validity would receive nothing. This included Mary's brother, who was unhappy with the distribution of assets. The In Terrorem Clause prevented Mary's brother from contesting the will in court.

  3. Sarah was left out of her grandfather's will entirely. However, when she considered contesting the will, she discovered that it included an In Terrorem Clause. This clause deterred her from taking any legal action against the will.

Legal Terms Similar to In Terrorem Clause

  1. No Contest Clause: A legal term similar to In Terrorem Clause, stating that if a beneficiary contests the will's validity and loses, they will receive nothing.

  2. Exculpatory Clause: A clause stating that a party is not liable for any damages or losses that may occur in future.

  3. Condition Precedent: A legal term for a requirement that must be met before a particular action can take place, such as receiving an inheritance.