Have You Unintentionally Disinherited Your Children?
Losing a parent is one of the most painful experiences one can endure in life. Unfortunately, accidental disinheritance can make that loss even more painful. If a parent intends his child to receive an inheritance, but the child inherits nothing due to the parent's failure to make a sound estate plan, the child may perceive that the disinheritance was intentional.
Regardless of how you plan to approach the distribution of your estate, it is important to ensure you have an accurate understanding of what will happen to your property based on several factors, such as: 1. how you hold title to property; 2. the provisions of any estate planning documents you make; and 3. the beneficiaries named on your financial accounts and insurance policies. Never assume your children will receive an inheritance simply because they are your natural heirs.
How to Ensure Your Children Will Inherit
Like many parents, leaving an inheritance to your children may be important to you. If so, you need to make a proper estate plan and execute valid estate planning documents. To ensure your children receive the inheritance you intend, you may want to:
1. Use our free estate planning worksheet to review how you currently hold title to property and compare that to your desired beneficiaries;
Wills and Trusts to learn about the estate planning documents you will need to complete your estate plan; and
3. Meet with an estate planning attorney licensed in your state to ensure your estate plan is valid and will carry out your intended objectives. See finding an attorney.
For more information, view our free parent's estate planning guide.
Heirs Disinherited Because Some Property Is Not Part of Estate
Many people assume that if they die without a will, known as dying intestate, their children will inherit at least a portion of their estate under applicable state intestate succession laws. However, these laws are not uniform and vary from state to state. See dying without a will.Unless you received professional advice from an attorney, you may not have accurate information about what your children are entitled to inherit under these laws. One important consideration is what is actually in your estate for purposes of probate, versus assets that will pass through non-probate transfers.Some or all of your property may actually pass without probate to a joint owner or a named beneficiary, through what are often referred to as non-probate transfers. For example, if you own a house or other real estate as joint tenants with your spouse, domestic partner or significant other, the surviving joint tenant will inherit the entire interest in the property upon the death of the other joint tenant. While you may want your children to inherit your interest in the property, they will not inherit it in this scenario, because a deceased joint tenantís interest does not pass to his heirs.While how you hold title to property is an important consideration in any estate plan, it is an even greater consideration if you own property with someone that is not the biological parent of your children. Even if your spouse has a close relationship with your children as a stepparent, he or she may not share the same interest in leaving the property to your children. See estate planning for
How Does Accidental Disinheritance Occur?
What are some of the potential causes of accidental or unintentional disinheritance?a. failure to make a will or living trust;b. failure to consider heirs and estate planning considerations when taking title to property;c. failure to update beneficiary designations on
life insurance policies, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and other types of accounts;d. failure to update your will or trust when significant life changes or events occur;e. making a will or trust that is invalid;f. making specific bequests in your will or trust;g. making a will or trust that contains errors which result in a beneficiary not receiving a bequest you intended;
h. leaving an estate with insufficient assets to cover outstanding debts and expenses, such as funeral and burial expenses, and medical expenses;i. failure to name contingent beneficiaries in your estate planning documents; andj. not having a comprehensive estate plan.