To Disinherit or Not: Alternatives to Cutting a Loved One from Your Will

As an Estate Planning Attorney, I’ve seen more than my fair share of familial challenges. I’ve had clients dealing with everything from chronic illness and sudden death to troubled children, estranged spouses and greedy siblings. I can’t count how many times a frustrated parent, sibling or spouse has plopped in a chair in my office, demanding that we disinherit someone out of anger and frustration. Usually, it’s because they don’t know other options are available.

Cutting someone out of your Will completely isn’t your only option!

The fact is, there are other ways to deal with errant relatives and disinheriting all together could be saved as a last resort:

Something to Lose

For the real troublemakers, your best option may be to leave them something that will be taken away if they contest your estate, instead of leaving them nothing at all. This will also satisfy the requirement that they are at least mentioned in your Estate Plan and give them a choice: take something or risk everything.Unhappy older man and son

Something to Earn

You can also make heirs earn their inheritance – even after you’re gone! This can be anything from requiring college graduation to successful drug testing before the money is doled out.

Restricted Inheritances

Some people take longer to grow up and get their act together. You can make an heir wait until they are 30 (or 60 if that what it takes!) or give them multiple chances by staging distributions in increments every 1-5 years. You can also Will a restricted annual or monthly payment (similar to a pension).

Limited Use Inheritances

Some kids should never get any money at all, but you can still leave them money to cover medical expenses, education, purchase of a home, etc. This money will stay in a Trust and be distributed by your executor.

If none of these options work for your unique situation, you still have every right to exclude any family member from your Trust or Will. It’s 100% your choice and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you would like to discuss this – or any other Trust or Will question, contact us now to schedule a consultation.

The Simple Truths About Disinheriting a Family Member From Your Will

There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and someone who can’t wait until you die. Inheritance refers to giving property to an individual upon your death. To disinherit means refusing to leave your property to a would-be heir. For most people, the term “disinherit” is a dirty, cruel word. For you, it may not be a dirty world, but a way to express your final wishes.

Reasons to Disinherit
The reasons to disinherit a family member are extremely personal and range from emotional to business decisions. Some common reasons people disinherit include:

1. Estrangemedisinheriting a childnt between you and a family member
2. Protecting the interest of your birth children over your stepchildren
3. Allocating money and assets to a deserving family member
4. The family member received your money and assets while you are alive
5. You believe your relative only wants your money

Disinheritance Factors to Consider
The threat of disinheriting a spouse or child seems powerful (especially when you see the dramatization portrayed on a television and movie). However, disinheriting immediate family members isn’t always as easy as a subplot in a movie or television series. If you are thinking about disinheriting a child or spouse from your will, you have to do more than just leave their name from the document.

In California, you can’t disinherit a spouse unless:
• You clearly and intentionally explain your decision in your will
• You include evidence that you left property and assets to your spouse outside your will or trust. This evidence must be included in the will.
• Your spouse waived rights to inherit from you in a valid, signed agreement such as a pre-nuptial agreement.disinheriting a spouse

In California, you are permitted to disinherit your children or any other family members from your will as long as your wishes are clearly stated. 

The most efficient way to handle disinheriting someone is to leave a small amount of money to the disinherited relative and include a no contest clause to prevent them from challenging the will.

If you’re struggling with this difficult decision, contact the Law Offices of Joel A. Harris, we can help you make the right decision for you – and your family. You’ve worked too hard to leave your family’s future to chance.