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If you decide you want to disinherit a child or other family member by leaving them out of your estate plan entirely or leaving them a nominal inheritance, it is important to be deliberate about your actions. Here are some steps and considerations that can help make sure your wishes are followed in such situations:
1. Be deliberate about documenting your rationale, but not necessarily in your estate planning documents themselves.
Letting your personal representative or trustee know your rationale for leaving a family member out of the estate plan can make their job easier. However, you should be careful about putting specific reasons into your Will or Trust, as doing so could potentially make them more open to Will contests.
2. Consider your options.
You could choose to not disinherit a family member completely. Instead, you might consider leaving them just a nominal gift in your estate plan, along with “no contest” language. Your attorney can help you understand the pros and cons of various approaches.
3. Remember that your estate planning documents don’t control your entire estate.
If you intend to disinherit someone or limit their inheritance, remember to revise beneficiary designations on things like retirement accounts and life insurance policies, as those pass outside of your estate planning documents.
4. Understand that you cannot completely disinherit your spouse.
While you can legally disinherit a child, parent, sibling, or other family member, you cannot completely disinherit your spouse. If you try to leave your spouse out of your estate plan or want to leave him or her just a nominal amount of assets, the law says they are entitled to take an “elective share” of your estate. This provision is designed to protect spouses from vindictive husbands or wives who could otherwise leave them penniless.
5. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Finally, disinheriting or limiting an inheritance for a family member adds a level of complexity to your estate plan. Working with an experienced, knowledgeable estate planning attorney can give you peace of mind, knowing your documents have been prepared in consideration with applicable laws.
From estate planning to trust administration, we help you from start to finish. We work with families at all stages of their lives to help protect their futures. Our services are customized to your specific goals and will alleviate your unique concerns. Contact us today to get started!