If you do not make a valid will naming other beneficiaries, it is possible your parents may inherit all or a portion of your estate if they survive you. If you are not survived by children or a spouse, your parents may be your closest surviving heirs, and therefore next in line to inherit under applicable state intestate succession laws. See dying without a will. The percentage amount or share they will inherit depends on the intestate share provided for parents under the state laws of the state where you are domiciled.
Although laws vary from state to state on a parent's right to inherit from their child who dies intestate, the key thing to remember is it is possible for a parent to inherit from his or her adult child, even if the parent did not maintain a relationship with the child. If you had an absentee parent, you may not want your parent to inherit your property. However, unless you make a valid will, the probate court and the person responsible for administering your estate may be unable to carry out your last wishes, including whether your surviving parent should inherit. See wills and trusts.
If you die without a will, when the time comes to distribute your property, an executor and the probate court will typically only look at your legal heirs. This means they will determine who is legally entitled to inherit your estate based on their status as relatives under state law, rather than inquiring into how good your relationship was with a particular heir, or whether you had any relationship with the heir. For example, if you have not spoken to your father or mother for twenty years, he or she may still be entitled to inherit your estate. Of course, it also depends on other factors, including whether you are survived by other heirs, such as a spouse or children.
Do not rely on your surviving friends and family to explain to the court that you would not want your parent to receive an inheritance. If your history with a parent is such that you want to ensure he or she does not receive a financial windfall from your passing, the only way to ensure your wishes are honored is to make an estate plan. In addition, your will and other estate planning documents should include provisions for how your estate should be distributed if your children, spouse or other named beneficiaries do not survive you.
Documents to Disinherit a Parent
If you want to take immediate action to ensure your parent does not inherit any of your money or property when you die, you can use
estate planning software to make a will that clearly states your last wishes regarding your parent. Your will and other estate planning documents should be drafted by an attorney. However, if that is not an option for you, using estate planning software is a way to make a will for under one hundred dollars.
If you want to leave an explanation of the reasons for disinheriting your parent, you can write an estate plan letter to store with your will. Estate planning letters are for informational purposes only and are not legally binding. Therefore, remember to make a valid will first. Then follow that up with any estate planning letters you want to write.
How to Disinherit a Parent
In an ideal world, this article would not be necessary. Most people do not want to contemplate disinheriting a parent. However, for many individuals, a poor or non-existent relationship with one or both parents is reality. In such cases, it may be more appropriate to leave your estate to charity, an educational institution or a person that has played an important role in your life. See legacy planning.
There may be valid reasons for not wanting a parent to inherit from your estate. For example, if your parent was not involved in your life growing up or did not contribute to your financial support, you may want to disinherit your parent. If your parent did not claim you as his child, or you are estranged due to a dispute, neglect, or abuse, you may want to disinherit your parent. Also, if you believe your parent would not handle inherited assets the way you want, you may want to name another beneficiary to receive your property.
Individuals that have a good relationship with their parents may find the concept of disinheriting a parent harsh or spiteful. Only those who have endured the pain of abandonment, neglect or severe mistreatment by a parent will understand the emotions that might motivate an adult child to disinherit a parent. If you want to ensure one or both of your parents do not receive an inheritance, make your objectives clear to an estate planning attorney. See finding an attorney. If you are uncomfortable discussing private family matters, it is not necessary to disclose all the details. All you must do is communicate to your attorney that you want a particular heir disinherited.
If you do not want one or both of your parents to receive an inheritance, you must make a valid will that includes properly drafted disinheritance language. See disinheriting an heir. If your estate plan includes a living trust, ask your attorney to ensure your living trust document is consistent with the provisions of your will regarding your intentions to disinherit a parent.
Essential Steps in Disinheriting a Parent
1. Make a will, and a living trust if appropriate, naming beneficiaries other than your parent to inherit your estate. Name an executor or trustee to oversee the administration of your estate.2. Name pay on death beneficiaries on all bank accounts designating someone other than your parent to receive the proceeds. See pay on death accounts.3. Name primary and contingent beneficiaries on all retirement accounts and name transfer on death beneficiaries on all brokerage accounts.
4. Name primary and contingent beneficiaries on all life insurance policies and annuities.5. Have your estate plan reviewed by an attorney to ensure you have taken all actions necessary to effectively disinherit your parent and your estate planning documents are valid.
Steps Related to Disinheriting a Parent
While the following steps are not essential to ensuring your parent is disinherited, if you have strong feelings about not wanting your parent to be granted access to your personal matters, you may also want to take the following steps:
1. Make a durable financial power of attorney appointing an agent to handle your financial affairs in the event you are disabled or incapacitated. Otherwise, your parent could petition for conservatorship in some circumstances if you are unable to manage your affairs.
2. Make a living will and durable power of attorney for health care. Your parents may be your closest next of kin, but if you donít have a good relationship, you may not want them making the decision to take you off life support or to make other important medical decisions. By executing a living will and durable health care power of attorney, you can name another person to make these decisions on your behalf.
3. Funeral arrangements are very personal. You want them handled by someone you trust to honor your memorial preferences. If you do not want your parents to be in charge of your final arrangements, use a last wishes planner to leave instructions regarding funeral services, burial, and cremation.