While Hollywood has glamorized disinheriting a child or grandchild, the decision to exclude someone from your will is quite complicated and emotional. There are four common reasons for removing an heir from your will:
- A pattern of behavior indicates the inheritance will be misused and/or cause added risk to the beneficiary’s life (for example, providing money for someone with significant drug or alcohol addiction).
- A split occurred and there is no longer a positive relationship, nor any chance of reconcilliation.
- The adult child or grandchild has already received significant financial support, creating an imbalance in the inheritance for the other siblings.
- The adult child or grandchild has already acquired significantly more wealth than his or her siblings without the inheritance.
Regardless of the reasoning, choosing to disinherit a child from your estate carries risks that should be fully understood. When a child or grandchild discovers that he or she has been cut out of a will, they most often look to fight the decision. This can mean a will dispute brought in court or an emotional battle with their siblings. Both are taxing on the family, especially when combined with the grief from having just lost a loved one. You can minimize these risks by taking these considerations into account.
Leverage a Trust to Control an Inheritance
If you’re concerned that your inheritance will support poor choices and bad behavior, a lifetime trust may be a better option than disinheritance. A trust establishes instructions for how and when distributions can be made to the heir, allowing for an inheritance with strings attached, so to speak. Some examples of incentives could be going to college, maintaining sobriety, or working a full-time job.
Make Your Intentions Clear
While it may be tempting to avoid mention of the disinherited party all together in the will or revocable living trust, your heirs and the court will have a better understanding of your intentions if you state your desire clearly in those documents. It will also help discourage the excluded heir from contesting the will.
Consider Power of Appointment
Excluding someone from your estate may seem like the right decision at this time, but it may not continue to be the right choice for your family in the future. Giving one of your trusted beneficiaries the power to “re-inherit” the disinherited party takes into account that circumstances may change.
Review All Beneficiary Designations
When excluding someone from your will or trust, it’s easy to overlook life insurance policies and retirement accounts that may still have the individual listed as a beneficiary. Review the documentation on all of your accounts once you have made your decision.
Get the Legal Guidance You Need
Considering disinheriting a child or grandchild from your estate can be a heavy weight to carry. If you are or think you may become involved in a dispute over disinheritance, the attorneys at Gaslowitz Frankel can help you explore all possible options and make the decision that is right for you, your family, and your legacy. Begin the conversation by calling 404-892-9797.