Disinheriting A Loved One

Disinheriting a loved one can be a tough choice. It should be considered an extreme step to be used in rare occasions. Unfortunately, it is necessary at times.

There can be lots of different reasons to consider disinheriting a member of your family. It could be based on a concern about addiction or wasteful spending. It could be the because you don’t like that person or their spouse. It could even be out of concern for a disabled loved one who would lose their government benefits.

Whatever the reason, disinheriting is an extreme step that should be used sparingly. I often advise that disinheriting should be treated as the final option. Whenever possible, other options should be considered that will address whatever concerns exist while avoiding what many estate planners consider the nuclear option.

Disinheriting a family member can have unintended consequences. For example, disinheriting could lead to disputes and hurt feelings as some family members become aware of the differing treatment. At the very least, it could lead to some awkward holiday encounters.

Even worse, disinheriting a family member substantially increases the risk of an estate plan being challenged in court. There is nothing to lose by challenging and everything to gain (or at least as much as could be received through intestacy). While civil litigation is already bad enough, it’s especially horrible when family is involved.

Before disinheriting a family member, consider using a trust. Trusts can be designed in a variety of ways. They can give someone you trust control over the inheritance while allowing your loved one to benefit. Your named trustee can make sure the inheritance does not get wasted or lost while still providing the financial assistance they may need.

Finally, if you do decide that disinheriting a family member is necessary, revisit that decision often. Sometimes the reason for disinheriting might no longer be valid. For example, a child with a drug problem can get help and remain clean. Rifts and disputes can be patched up. Or a financially well-off heir might run into hard times. Whatever the reason, make sure you regularly reevaluate the decision. The last thing you need is for your last act be one that could cause resentment because you forgot to remove the disinheritance.