In the majority of estate plans, parents choose to leave considerable assets to their children. The reasons for this are fairly obvious and easy to assume. But not all parent-child relationships last a lifetime, and there are plenty of cases in which a parent will decide to disinherit a grown son or daughter.
What you do with your estate is, of course, your decision. You can disinherit one of your kids for any reason or no reason at all. Because disinheritance goes against the norm, however, you’ll want to take certain steps to reduce the chances that your intentions are unclear and that your estate becomes the subject of litigation.
Note the disinheritance in the will, but avoid a screed
When you disinherit a child, you don’t want it to be construed as a mistake or oversight. Additionally, you don’t want to give any chance for the disinherited person to allege (in bad faith) that his or her omission from the will was an accident.
Therefore, your will should include an affirmative statement of your intentions to disinherit. Beyond that one statement, however, you don’t need to and should not state reasons for the disinheritance in the will. For a variety of reasons, it could call your soundness of mind into question at the time of writing the will.
Instead, you should share your reasons for disinheriting with the attorney who helps you draft the will (and the attorney should be taking careful notes). That way, if the will is contested by the disinherited party, the attorney can attest that this was your true intention, backed by reasons shared with the attorney.
Careful planning avoids estate litigation
Too many estates become the subject of family in-fighting and litigation – often because of hurt feelings or long-standing disagreements. You’ll want to do everything you can to prevent your own estate from being challenged. Litigation is expensive, stressful for your family and drains assets from the estate that should rightfully be going to your named heirs.
In short: no matter what decisions you make about your estate, it is a wise idea to work with an attorney who can document your wishes and protect your interests.