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How can you avoid disinheritance disputes?

On Behalf of | Jul 7, 2024 | Estate Planning

As you work on your estate plan, you realize that you have two main goals. For one thing, you’d like to eliminate disputes between your beneficiaries after you pass away. You don’t want to create long-term arguments or drive a wedge between two family members.

Your second goal, however, is to disinherit one of those family members. Perhaps one of your children lives a lifestyle that you do not approve of, such as being involved in illegal drug use. You do not want the inheritance to fund this activity, so you are just going to cut them out of the will entirely. 

How are these issues related?

These two issues can be related because disinheriting someone may cause an estate dispute. If you just erase the portion of the estate plan leaving an inheritance to that beneficiary, and you delete them from the will entirely, they may claim that it was not done intentionally. They could say that you must have just forgot to include them. Or, they may blame their siblings for the change. Maybe they think that the estate plan was altered fraudulently or through undue influence. All of these are potential reasons for an estate dispute.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t disinherit this person, although you could consider alternatives – such as putting the money in the trust so that the trust controls how it is used. But the key is just to make all of your intentions as clear as you can. For example, you may want to use a disinheritance clause stating that you have intentionally removed this beneficiary from the plan. You could also give them a minimal inheritance – such as leaving them $10 – so that they know you did not forget.

Disinheriting someone is one of the most complex parts of estate planning. Be sure you know what legal options you have.