Planning Your Estate Around a “Black Sheep” Beneficiary

Every family has a black sheep or two. They’re people you love but whose behavior doesn’t align with your own beliefs. These family members can make estate planning more difficult, especially if you want to leave them something after you pass. 

There are many ways someone may be a black sheep beneficiary. Maybe they don’t have the best track record of making good financial decisions. Perhaps they struggle with addiction. They may just make lifestyle choices you do not support. 

Many myths about estate plans may cause you to think the only way to protect your assets from these black sheep is by disinheriting them. However, this isn’t true. Despite what you may think, there are ways to include them in your plan while keeping your assets secure from potential poor decisions.

Myths About Estate Planning and Wayward Beneficiaries

If you have not developed an estate plan before, you may believe some common myths about what you can and cannot do regarding the wild child in your family. Luckily, none of the following misconceptions are true:

  • You have to split your assets equally. If you have multiple beneficiaries, you can divide your estate among them however you want. That includes leaving liquid assets to a beneficiary whose judgment is sound while leaving a carefully-controlled trust to someone else.
  • Disinheriting and other estate decisions are permanent. Unless you set up an irrevocable trust, every decision you make can be changed in the future. You can disinherit or reduce the inheritance of one party while they are young, then reverse the decision down the road if they calm down. 
  • You have no control over your assets after you pass. With the proper use of trusts, it is possible to control your property even after you have passed away. Trusts can include a wide variety of terms and conditions that allow you to dictate how the assets are used and distributed in advance.
  • Trusts are too complicated. While a trust must be carefully structured to accomplish your goals, they do not have to be complicated to administer. You can easily and effectively set up a self-sustaining trust to account for any black sheep in your family if you form it with skilled legal assistance and designate a professional trustee to manage it.

How to Plan to Protect Your Assets and Your Beneficiaries

With those myths out of the way, you can begin drafting your estate plan with prodigal relatives in mind. Since every family is different, no single strategy will work for everyone dealing with a black sheep. However, the process for developing an effective document remains the same:

  • Consider your goals. Do you want to encourage your beneficiary to take certain actions or make better choices? Are you concerned they may waste money if they receive a large lump sum? Do you want to ensure they are supported when you’re gone? Determining your specific goals for your assets and beneficiaries is crucial to selecting the best way to include them in your plan.
  • Work with a skilled estate planning lawyer. It is always important to discuss your needs with an attorney before drafting legal documents. However, professional legal counsel is even more necessary if you balance the demands of including a wayward relative in your estate plan. Your attorney will advise you on how to structure your plan to accomplish your goals while providing for your loved ones.
  • Revise your plan regularly. Your beneficiary’s behavior may change over time. So may your own opinions and preferences. Routinely reviewing and updating your plan ensures it always reflects your current goals for your estate.

Prepare Your Estate Plan With the Dayton Law Firm, P.C.

Many factors, including your beneficiaries’ behavior, will shape a well-written estate plan. If you are trying to prepare a plan that accounts for the black sheep in your family, reach out to the Dayton Law Firm, P.C. Our skilled lawyers have decades of experience in estate planning for all circumstances. We can advise you on the best way to structure your plan to protect your assets while still supporting all of your loved ones. Learn more about how we can assist you by scheduling your consultation with our California law firm today.