Key Considerations When Disinheriting Someone in Your Estate Plan

You have the right to disinherit anyone but your spouse or minor children from your last will and testament.

Most commonly an issue when parents wish to disinherit adult children, it’s a decision you should never make lightly. After all, it could cause enormous rifts among your family members and beneficiaries, and potentially lead to some lasting problems if not addressed properly. However, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to disinherit someone.

Here are a few key tips and considerations to keep in mind as you make this important decision:

Always put it in writing: You cannot disinherit someone if you do not have a will or estate plan. Dying without a will sends your assets into intestacy, which means New York state law controls how your property will be distributed. You must have an estate plan in writing and must specify that you have chosen to disinherit your child.

Do not just leave your child out of the will: If you are disinheriting an adult child, you should not do so simply by leaving him or her out of the will. This opens your will to potential challenges from the child you wanted to disinherit. You should plainly state that you have chosen to disinherit that child.

Clearly state who you are disinheriting: Mention who you are disinheriting by name so there can be no confusion when analyzing your will. For example, you should not simply say “my son” if you have two or more sons. There should be absolutely no room for mistakes or misunderstandings when it comes to the language used to disinherit someone from your will.

Include the reason for disinheritance in another document: There is likely a serious reason why you have chosen to disinherit your child. In some cases, it might simply be because one of your children has significantly more money and property than your other child or children, so you wanted to leave your estate to be split among the others. However, the reason could also be due to a strained relationship, poor decision making or criminal activity. It can be helpful to have a note included in your estate plan—separate from your wills and trusts—that explains the reason in detail.

Discuss the disinheritance ahead of time: If you want to minimize the chances of your disinherited child challenging your will, you should avoid blindsiding him or her with the news. As difficult as it might be, it can be beneficial to have a conversation with that person in advance about your decision and the reason you have made it. This will soften the blow and still give you the opportunity to avoid passing away while on bad terms with him or her.

For more information on how to disinherit an individual from your will, contact a skilled New York estate planning lawyer at Lissner & Lissner, LLP.