Reasons to Disinherit Someone From Your Will
By: Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
January 20, 2022
It’s the standard assumption that if you are preparing your estate, the beneficiaries of your assets will be your family. But what if you don’t actually get along with a handful of your family members? Or you are estranged from them? There are many valid reasons why you might actually want to disinherit someone from your will.
Remember, though, disinheritance is a decision that should be made thoughtfully and with the help of an experienced estate and probate attorney. Let’s take a look at the details surrounding disinheritance.
Disinheritance is when you intentionally (or sometimes accidentally) exclude someone from receiving your assets in your last will and testament. This makes them ineligible to receive any of your assets or property after your death. While this decision may cause conflict or hurt, it’s important that your will best reflect your own wishes.
If you go through the right channels and update your estate plan accordingly, it’s possible to disinherit most people from your will for any reason you deem fit. And not all reasons for disinheritance are related to conflict or estrangement.
You may have given many gifts to a particular family member during your lifetime and want to distribute your remaining estate among others. Or you may have family members who are very financially stable and others who are in greater need. It is ultimately your choice how you divide up your estate.
Let’s examine the most common reasons for disinheritance.
Reasons You Might Disinherit Someone from Your Will
- Lack of Relationship or Estrangement: This might be the most common reason for disinheritance. Despite familial relations, many people rightfully do not want their estate going to someone with whom they have no current relationship.
- Divorce: If you are divorced, and especially if you are in a new marriage, it is important to alter your estate plan to reflect this change. If you have new children or new or former step-children, you should also consider this in your will.
- Financial Security or Previous Inheritance Distributions: Sometimes a parent or family member has given multiple fiscal gifts to a child or other beneficiary during their lifetime. In these cases, the beneficiary may be left out of the will to reflect this or to distribute the remaining wealth fairly. Additionally, some potential heirs may have a great deal of financial security and wealth, and do not need to inherit out of need.
- Financial Irresponsibility: Some potential beneficiaries may have demonstrated financial irresponsibility, which could cause hesitation regarding leaving them part of your estate. There are a few ways to handle this in your estate plan, including disinheriting.
- Character Judgement: Occasionally, parents or other family members may decide to exclude children out of a will due to differences in lifestyle or a concern in regard to their character. This can happen due to religious, political, or personal differences.
- Charitable Causes: In the event that a large part of the estate is left to charitable causes, sometimes certain beneficiaries are removed from the will to free up assets to donate.
Who Can I Disinherit?
It’s important to understand your rights around disinheritance and the rights of your heirs. It is fairly easy to disinherit extended relatives and surviving parents by simply leaving them out of your will. But spouses and children are trickier when it comes to disinheritance.
Unless you signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, it is very difficult to disinherit a spouse. Most states have laws protecting spousal rights and govern how much your spouse is entitled to in your estate.
And while it is legal to disinherit your spouse without the proper ancillary documents, it is possible that they will pursue litigation against your estate. They can do this by disputing the disinheritance or filing a Right of Election.
Any children who are minors at the time of your death cannot be disinherited due to protection laws. But you can disinherit adult children.
However, any children may try to contest omission from your will, so it is recommended that you support your reason for disinheritance with thorough documentation. Without further explanation of your choice to disinherit your child, a court will often assume it was an oversight on your part and still distribute your assets to them.
Updating Your Will
Once you have made the decision to disinherit someone from your will, it is of utmost importance that you update your last will and testament to reflect this. Adding a disinheritance clause to your will can help clarify for the courts and your personal representative(s) why this person’s name was removed. This can help limit disputes and conflicts.
Remember that while you can disinherit most people from your will, some family members will attempt to challenge your decision. One solution is to establish a living trust, which can offer you more privacy in regard to inheritance and help in avoiding the probate process.
Regardless of how and why you alter your will, it is imperative that you have the support of an experienced estate planning attorney to protect your assets. You may feel apprehensive about disinheriting someone, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Call Haimo Law at 954-228-3369 to start planning your estate today.
Barry E. Haimo, Esq.
Strategic Planning With Purpose®
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