As cruel as it sounds to disinherit a child, people have their reasons. Sometimes there is no relationship. Other parents might feel the adult is well-off and does not need an inheritance.
Estate planning largely involves the process of distributing assets to your heirs. But what if you decide not to distribute assets to certain heirs? Be forewarned: disinheritance, regardless of your reasons, can lead to hurt feelings and even quarrelsome legal battles.
A recent article from Reuters, “Disinheriting someone is not easy,” illustrates some of the many reasons people choose not to leave assets to certain heirs. The reasons are as varied as the assets involved, and may include anything from hard feelings within a family to a desire to "equalize" wealth among adult children with differing degrees of financial success.
If you choose to disinherit someone, realize that some classes of heirs have legal rights that cannot be violated, such as spouses and minor children. Reuters explains it well:
Just as you cannot tell a divorce judge that you refuse to split assets or pay alimony, you cannot leave your surviving spouse's house and all of the money to a child or some other family member. Using language to disavow and disinherit your spouse will not help ... the spouse can waive the will and receive whatever he or she is entitled to under state law. Minor children are also protected by the courts. Whatever financial support the minor is entitled to receive, he or she will get, assuming the money is available.
Regardless of the reason(s) you may have to disinherit someone, be sure to discuss them with your estate planning attorney. Properly drafted legal documents can help ensure your wishes are followed, as well as prevent unintended consequences such as hurt feelings or court battles.
Remember, disinheritance is a decision not to be taken lightly. Even if you do it for the right reasons, it can turn ugly if not done properly.
Reference: Reuters (January 31, 2013) “Disinheriting someone is not easy”