Do you want to ensure that a particular family member does not inherit from your estate? If so, you'll need to take special care when crafting your will and other estate planning documents. How can you disinherit someone in a way that balances clarity, legality, and tact? Here are a few tips for disinheriting specific family members.
1. Disinheriting Your Spouse
Check with your state inheritance rules before you make any attempt to disinherit a spouse — even an estranged spouse. In most states, it's not generally possible to completely disinherit your legal spouse. You may have to settle for minimizing what they receive based on state requirements.
2. Disinheriting Minor Children
As with the spouse, many states also provide inheritance protections for minor children. Until they reach the age of legal majority, minor children are generally due the same level of support they would have received from you had you remained alive. However, you may change your will as soon as your kids reach adulthood to make other arrangements.
3. Disinheriting Adult Children
Disinheriting an adult child is usually easier and more successful than either of the above. But don't simply leave their name out of your will, thinking it will be enough. Your intentions must be clear, usually by directly stating your intent that they receive nothing. Otherwise, the will could be contested and the missing name deemed an oversight. And make a new will, rather than using a codicil.
4. Disinheriting Extended Family
Don't want your spendthrift cousin or estranged grandchild to receive an inheritance? The good news is that you may not need to address them at all. As long as there are enough family members before them according to the inheritance laws of your state, it's unlikely that they would receive anything anyway. So you may not need to cause more family drama by specifically disinheriting them. However, if you have a small family, follow the guidelines for adult children above.
5. Disinheriting Adopted and Step Family
What about non-biological relations? The means to disinherit them depends on their legal status related to you. Adopted children receive the same benefits as biological children, so you may or may not be able to disinherit them based on their age. However, stepchildren are usually not granted the same rights. They're often low in the order of inheritance, so you may not have to take active steps to ensure they don't receive anything.
Where to Start
The best way to begin is to learn more about inheritance requirements in your state. Meet with an experienced estate planning attorney to help find the right path to see that your wishes are followed when you pass away.
Contact an estate planning lawyer to learn more.