This article explains how to disinherit an heir, including form language to disinherit an heir in your will. It also provides an overview of issues that may prevent you from disinheriting certain types of legal heirs due to laws that protect the inheritance rights of some heirs.To disinherit an heir, you should include clear and complete disinheritance language in your will. Note, there are some circumstances in which you cannot fully disinherit an heir. To the extent applicable state laws provide certain inheritance rights for surviving spouses and children, these heirs may have a right to inherit a portion of your estate irrespective of testamentary language. For example, a spouse has certain legal rights that cannot be taken away merely by drafting a will. An example is the spousal share.
Before attempting to disinherit a husband, wife or spouse, review our section on can you disinherit a spouse and consult an attorney about the laws in the state where you are domiciled. A lawyer may be able to give you a list of things you can do to reduce an heir's inheritance using estate planning strategies other than a will. If you still plan to disinherit a spouse or child after reviewing information on inheritance rights of your legal heirs, review the form language for disinheritance shown on the right side of this page. Then have an attorney draft your will. Failure to use proper disinheritance language can lead to expensive will and trust disputes which could result in your intended beneficiaries receiving a much smaller inheritance.Also, before you make a new will or amend your existing will to disinherit an heir, be aware of a few key points. First, you do not need to disinherit people in your will that are not related to you and would not inherit from you under state intestacy laws. For example, you do not need to add language to your will to disinherit a former friend, classmate or girlfriend because a person with that relationship to you will not inherit from your estate even if you die without a will. To learn about intestate succession laws, go to our section on dying without a will.Furthermore, it may not be a good idea to disinherit a person you want to handle certain responsibilities for you after your death. For example, if you made arrangements for a spouse, child or other relative to serve as guardian of your children, care for your pets, serve as executor of your estate or carry out your last wishes, you may not want to disinherit such person, unless he or she is likely to understand your reasons for leaving your estate to someone else.
How to Disinherit Your Ex-Spouse
If you have an existing will or trust that leaves property to your ex-spouse or partner because you have not updated your estate plan since you were divorced, separated or broke up, it is important to either execute codicils and amendments to revise your estate planning documents or execute a new will or trust to revoke any bequests to your ex and make the disinheritance clear.In most states, even after your divorce is final, if you have not revised or replaced the will you made during marriage and your estate planning documents make a bequest to the ex-wife or ex-husband, your ex will be entitled to inherit because your will was not amended or a new will was not made after the divorce. In most cases, this results in an outcome you do not intend. To print your own will forms, you can use estate planning software. However, always have a licensed attorney review your will and oversee the execution to ensure you have the appropriate type and number of witnesses, etc.What if you are legally separated from your spouse but not divorced? You can make a new will or revise your existing will with a codicil after you file for divorce or while divorce proceedings are in process. This is essential to make clear your intentions that your spouse should not inherit from your estate. If you have minor children, updating your will is also extremely important in terms of guardianship of your children.
How to Change Your Will to Disinherit an Heir
If you are ready to revise your will or make a new will to disinherit a spouse, child or other heir, review the steps you need to take to change my will.Because of the time, legal fees, and costs involved in amending a will or making a new will, make sure you know whom you want to name as the new beneficiaries of your estate. There is a list of key issues to review prior to changing a will or trust on our wills page. Again, talk with an attorney to ensure you use the required language to prevent a will contest or a costly legal dispute over your estate. One of the primary sources of estate litigation is a change in the will that results in an heir being disinherited. An heir that is upset about being disinherited may start a process known as Contesting a Will.
Prevent Claims by Disinherited Heirs
When you disinherit an heir, there is a strong possibility a claim may be filed against your estate. An estate planning lawyer can assist you in taking the following steps to support the disinheritance:
1. Have No-Contest Clauses added to your estate planning documents.2. Make your will a Self-Proving Will.3. Have a residuary clause added to your will.4. Have your will signing videotaped.5. Write a letter explaining your reasons for disinheriting the heir and attach it to your will.6. If your legal heirs may petition to void your will based on lack of testamentary capacity, diminished capacity or a related issue, ask your lawyer about having a Letter Competent Will prepared as part of your estate plan.
How to Disinherit a Child
With the exception of a few states, you are generally not required to leave anything to your children, provided you make a valid will leaving your entire estate to other beneficiaries. There is no requirement that you state a reason in your will about why you disinherited your child. You can give a reason if you choose. If you want to explain the reason for cutting someone out of your will, you can write a letter that explains the contents of your will. This can be done in an estate plan letter.You can leave all your property to your spouse and nothing to your adult children. An alternative is to leave all your property to your spouse and name your children as contingent beneficiaries to inherit your estate if your spouse dies before you. You may wish to leave a bequest to your grandchildren or great grandchildren as well. If you want to ensure a certain share of your estate passes to each child, grandchild or descendant, let your attorney know you want to include this in your will.The law presumes you would want your child to inherit from your estate, so to overcome that presumption, your will must show you did not unintentionally overlook your child and were not operating under a mistake when you omitted your child from your will. For this reason, to effectively disinherit a child, you must specifically mention the child in your will and use language to indicate you have intentionally failed to make any provision for that child. If you fail to mention your child in your will, the state may award the child his intestate share of your estate as if you died without a will, meaning your child will receive an inheritance.If you have considered disinheriting your adult child because of issues in your relationship, you are not alone. This is one of the most common reasons for will changes, codicils, and making new wills. If you want to disinherit your adult child, it may be a good idea to talk with someone close to you to consider other opinions. Before finalizing changes to your estate plan to disinherit one of your legal heirs, make sure you are unlikely to change your mind about the disinheritance. Because of the costs involved in making a valid will or codicil, it is important to be certain about your decision. Although you may think you can always go back and change your will at a later date if you reconcile with your child, you could die before you have a chance to make a new will.If you are planning to disinherit an illegitimate child that you acknowledged throughout his or her life as your own, this type of disinheritance often results in a lawsuit against the estate. The legal right to inherit of NonMarital Children should be taken into consideration when deciding how to distribute your estate, especially if the right to inherit of one child may impact the inheritance of another person you want to inherit your estate.Because each state has its own unique laws regarding what a child is entitled to inherit, review the laws of your state before you make an estate plan. For example, Florida law protects a surviving spouse and child from total disinheritance by requiring the head of a family to leave his home or residence to his spouse or child. If you use a boilerplate will form, you could violate important state laws that prevent your estate from being distributed according to your wishes.It is important to distinguish between disinheriting a child and leaving property to your children in unequal shares. Parents may divide their estate in unequal shares for a variety of reasons. If you have a child with special needs, your other children may understand why you chose to leave a larger inheritance to this child. If you have a dependent adult child, get information on different types of trusts that can be used to support a dependent child. If you are considering leaving one child a larger inheritance or want to protect one child's inheritance from another, such as a greedy sibling, review a list of estate planning issues to consider regarding an adult child's inheritance.
Disinheritance Language for Wills
To the extent an heir can be disinherited under state laws, sample disinheritance language for a will is: I have intentionally failed to provide for my daughter, insert full legal name of daughter. Be sure to mention each of your children by name in your will, even if you include language to disinherit one of them. A will form may also include a section entitled Disinheritance which includes language such as: Except as expressly provided herein, I have intentionally omitted to provide for persons who may be my heirs, whether or not now in being.Only a lawyer licensed in your state can advise on the language necessary to disinherit an heir and make your will or trust provisions enforceable. It is a common misconception that the legal way to disinherit someone is to leave the sum of one dollar or some other nominal amount to the heir in your will. Leaving your child one dollar does not prevent such child from contesting a will. Regardless of the language in your will, you cannot prevent an heir from filing a lawsuit against your estate. Any person who has standing and states a claim can contest a will.
Disinheritance and Living Trusts
If you make a living trust, you should still make a pour over will to disinherit an heir. The pour-over will and other types of wills are explained in our section on types of wills.Most states require a will be used to disinherit someone rather than other estate planning documents. If you fail to make a will, the heir you intend to disinherit may still inherit from your estate because the disinheritance was not done properly.
How to Disinherit Other Heirs
If you have no surviving spouse, children or grandchildren, your surviving next of kin, such as siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, may inherit from your estate if you die without a will. These more distant relations may be your only legal heirs. Individuals that have accumulated wealth or even a small amount of property but have no spouse or children sometimes have to deal with greedy heirs that will use a variety of tactics to get something from your estate. If you are in this situation and do not want certain relatives to inherit your property, you can make a will and use appropriate language to disinherit them. Your lawyer may also assist you in setting up estate planning trusts that are effective in making sure greedy heirs get nothing when you die.If your only living heir is a parent it is important to be aware this parent may inherit your estate if you predecease them or die first. If you have a good relationship with your parents, this outcome may be fine with you. Unfortunately, there are circumstances in which a person has no relationship with one or both parents but the person next in line to inherit their estate is the parent. If your parent was not involved in your life as a child, did not pay child support or committed actions that resulted in your estrangement, you may feel strongly they should not receive anything from you when you die. Be aware there are steps you can take to Disinherit a Parent. You can start by making a will or trust that leaves your property to someone else. A lawyer can help ensure your assets pass to the people or organizations you choose.
Do You Have Pretermitted Heirs?
A pretermitted heir is a child, spouse or other descendant of the testator that was not mentioned in the will of the testator but would have inherited a share of the estate under state laws if there was no will. If you fail to mention your spouse or child in your will, even if you are estranged, in most states your spouse or child has the right to inherit from your estate under state intestacy laws. For example, if you have a child born after the date of your last will and the child is not mentioned in your will, such child usually has the right to inherit from your estate as if you had died intestate. Copyright 2020 Pennyborn.com. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.Updated March 25, 2020.
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