Disinheriting an heir is something most of us hope we never have to do. It’s sad, but it happens. Sometimes you grow estranged from an heir. Other times, the heir may be on a path to self-destruction that you don't want to aid and abet.
Not all circumstances are this dire. Occasionally, an heir surpasses you financially so they won’t benefit as much from an inheritance as the family artist who is still paying off his American Studies degree.
Whatever your hilarious or tragic reason might be, removing an heir from your estate is fairly straightforward. Emotionally, this move can be devastating to your personal life and tear your family apart. But legally it’s a piece of cake. The following will outline the disinheriting process, but also present legal alternatives to disinheriting.
Unless you specifically state otherwise in a legally binding document, the state is going to assume that you intended your spouse, and then your children to be your heirs. You know, because they assume you love your family. If you think about it, that is the appropriate default setting.
So, if you want to cut an heir out of an inheritance you’ve got to really mean it. You can't undo this move from beyond the grave.
It is important to complete an entire list of your children in the estate plan and to specify any child who will not be an heir. This will make for a wonderful and dramatic moment suitable for a movie:
The estranged youngest son shows up on the day of his father’s death. After comforting his mother and arguing with his brother, his father’s will is read aloud in father’s study. As the grieving family gathers around, the executor reads in a loud, authoritative voice: “…and to my youngest son Samuel, I leave nothing.”
The son lowers his head. His sister tries to comfort him. He dashes from the room. It’s the sweetest revenge of all: revenge from beyond the grave!
In all seriousness, I know what a tragic situation disinheriting can be. That's why I'm going to share another, less final option below.
If you want to leave something for a lost or wayward child, you can always attach a few strings to an inheritance. In this way, you take a family tragedy and turn it into a hilarious, heart-warming comedy.
Now, you cannot just attach any stipulation you can think of to an inheritance. Everything has its limits. For instance, you cannot ask an heir to commit a crime. You cannot subject them to anything torturous, no matter how personally entertaining you might find those posibilities. If you want to make your heir miserable, you’ll have to double up on the emotional torture while you’re still alive. Disinheriting isn't the best option for haunting beyond the grave. Not that we recommend a life spent in resentment for anyone.
You also cannot ask an heir to divorce their partner. This topic is kind of a "fan-favorite," and comes up all the time. Most of us tolerate our children, but you may not relish the prospect of sharing your money with your money-grubbing in-laws. Nonetheless, most courts view such a request as a violation of public policy because it promotes divorce.
We'e previously covered how to use wills and trusts instead of disinheriting your heirs. I recommend you read that as well if you're considering this process.
You should talk to a lawyer about what kinds of stipulations you can place on an inheritance. You might demand that your heirs do something with their lives, from maintaining stable employment to educating themselves, before they can access what you leave behind. This will teach them to fish for themselves before you give them all of your catch.
If you need help disinheriting, adding stipulations to your will, or otherwise planning your estate, contact us today. At Royal Legal Solutions, our experts can help with all phases of the estate planning process.
Scott Royal Smith is an asset protection attorney and long-time real estate investor. He's on a mission to help fellow investors free their time, protect their assets, and create lasting wealth.
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