How To Disinherit a Child

Every family has their issues. Everyone’s happy family photos on social media does NOT always depict real life. Believe me, you’d be surprised about deeper family issues behind the scenes and that is often played out in the estate planning process. And this is very normal. There can be a number of reasons for why you may want to disinherit a child from your estate plan. Obviously disinheriting a child will raise a red flag and increase the risk of litigation so you have to be absolutely clear in your estate plan documents about your intent.

While there is no way to completely prevent your heirs from pursuing a claim, what you can do to is put in a “no contest” or “terror” clause in your document to at least serve as a deterrent. And spell out your intent in more detail in a separate letter or memorandum. I once had a client go so far as create a video interview between herself and my partner (along with other witnesses in the background) explaining why she wanted to exclude her son from her estate plan. And a copy of the DVD was placed in the file in case the child decided to go to court. (The primary purpose of doing a video was to ensure proof that she was of sound mind and not under undue influence.)

As an alternative to completely disinheriting your child, consider leaving a smaller portion of your estate to your child and explain the reasons behind the unequal treatment.

Before you decide to disinherit your child, think about these tips:

  1. Do not threaten (while you are alive) to disinherit your child to manipulate his or her behavior. Don’t let them equate your love for them with money.
  2. Depending on the reasons behind your desire to disinherit, consider placing their share in a Trust. For instance, if you are concerned your child will blow his or her inheritance on alcohol, drugs, gambling or other illicit behaviors – or perhaps you are simply concerned he or she will lose the motivation to work and contribute society in a meaningful way – you can place your child’s share in a Trust and control the child’s inheritance.
  3. Make your intention to disinherit your child explicit in your documents.
  4. If you have a change of heart and want to include your child back in your estate plan documents, change your documents as soon as possible.
  5. Think about it. Sleep on it. Then put it in writing.



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