Most people can think of someone that they would NEVER want to inherit their assets when they pass away. The hope is that those people aren’t rightful heirs in the line of succession anyway. However, if the person you want to disinherit is a rightful heir, you’ll need to make sure they are legally excluded from your estate with careful planning.
Why disinherit someone?
We tend to think of disinheritance as a cruel last gesture, leaving a poor soul out in the cold, but in reality, there are sound reasons why someone may not want one of their heirs to inherit. We’ve all heard the phrase “blood is thicker than water,” but it doesn’t actually mean that family is closer than friends; it’s shortened from the phrase “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” because the relationships we choose to be in trump mere biology.
It’s entirely possible that someone would much rather their best friend inherit than the brother they’ve never gotten along with. Sometimes, parents disinherit children who have proven themselves financially irresponsible or unable to take proper care of property. Or, they may leave a financially successful child out of their estate when they have limited assets and less successful children would benefit more.
Explain your reasons why.
You can explain yourself in your estate planning documents, and you should do so if you’re leaving an heir out. Sometimes, it suffices simply to write that you disinherit someone or leave nothing to them. Other times may warrant an explanation in case there’s a chance that person will contest your wishes in court. A simple, concise statement should be sufficient.
Don’t be mean or impulsive about it.
It’s best not to use your will or trust as a chance to get in the last word, as too-strong words may give an heir grounds to contest your documents as fraudulent or otherwise invalid, especially if you’ve never expressed those feelings before publicly.
Give them a nominal gift.
Sometimes diffusing a potential situation is best. A disinherited heir risks nothing contesting the will. Giving a smaller gift to an heir you’d rather disinherit may deter them from contesting the will, especially if you include a no contest clause, stating that anyone who contests the will forfeits their inheritance. They may decide that keeping the little they get is better than losing it all.
If you’re considering disinheriting someone, consult an LA County estate attorney to help you draft your estate plan so that your last wishes are honored. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with our office, simply call (818) 905-6088.