Are you prepared to disinherit someone?

On its face, estate planning may seem relatively easy, especially if you have limited assets or your family dynamics are pretty simple. But life changes, and so should your estate plan. If you neglect to revisit your estate plan when important life events occur, then your assets could be left in the hands of someone whom you never intended to inherit. Although births, deaths, and marriages can all justify an estate plan modification, so, too, can a simple falling out with a loved one.

When should you disinherit a family member?

This is a question that only you can answer. However, there may be certain circumstances that justify reconsidering to whom you leave your assets. For example, if your family member marries someone that you think will take control of your assets and squander them away, then disinheriting may be warranted. Divorce is another common reason for disinheriting a former spouse and his or her children. In many instances, though, there’s simply been a falling out that is so severe that the relationship is irreparable. Regardless of the situation, if you have doubts about the individual that may be positioned to inherit your estate, then you may want to discuss your situation with an estate planning attorney.

Disinheriting a loved one

Regardless of why you want to disinherit someone, you have to make sure that you carefully think it through. After all, disinheritance can cause emotional strife and, in some instances, litigation. This litigation can cause family infighting and cost your estate a significant amount of money. Yet, disinheritance is oftentimes necessary.

To disinherit someone, you usually have to include a clause in your will that specifies who is disinherited and why. For example, indicating something like “John is to receive no assets from my estate” may be sufficient, but it’s best if you’re more detailed. So, think about discussing this with your estate planning attorney to ensure that you’re not leaving any doors open for the disinherited individual to come back and argue for a share of the estate.

If you’re unsure about disinheriting and you want to provide your family member with the opportunity to inherit, then you may want to place conditions on the inheritance. For example, you might specify that John is to complete substance abuse treatment within a certain period of time in order to inherit specified assets, and that his failure to complete said treatment will cause him to inherit nothing. Remember, though, you’ll need to be very specific here so that there’s no room for interpretation.

The limitations on disinheritance

Keep in mind that there may be limitations on who you can disinherit. It may be easy to disinherit a distant relative or your parents, but you’ll likely be prevented from disinheriting your spouse unless there’s some other formal arrangement in place that allows you to do so. Your minor children are also protected from disinheritance. The rules here can be nuanced, though, so make sure that you discuss the specifics of your situation with an attorney you trust.

Seek help in creating the estate plan that is right for you

Estate planning can be extraordinarily complex if you want to bring your vision for your estate and your loved ones into reality. That’s why it might be best for you to discuss the specifics of your situation with an attorney who is well-versed in this area of the law. Hopefully then you can rest assured that you have the plan in place that will protect your estate as fully as possible.