To disinherit an heir, you should include clear and complete disinheritance language in your will. Note, there are some circumstances in which you cannot fully disinherit an heir. To the extent applicable state laws provide certain inheritance rights for surviving spouses and children, these heirs may have a right to inherit a portion of your estate irrespective of testamentary language. See spousal share and disinherit a spouse.
After reviewing these laws, if you still plan to disinherit a spouse or child, consult an attorney for help drafting the will. Failure to use proper disinheritance language can lead to expensive will and trust disputes which could result in your intended beneficiaries receiving a smaller inheritance.
Before you make a new will or amend your existing will to disinherit an heir, be aware of a few key points. First, you do not need to disinherit people in your will that are not related to you and would not inherit from you under state intestacy laws. For example, you do not need to add language to your will to disinherit a former friend, classmate or girlfriend because a person with that relationship to you will not inherit from your estate even if you die without a will. See dying without a will.Also, it may not be a good idea to disinherit a person you want to handle certain responsibilities for you after your death. For example, if you made arrangements for a spouse, child or other relative to serve as guardian of your children, care for your pets, serve as executor of your estate or carry out your last wishes, you may not want to disinherit such person, unless he or she is likely to understand your reasons.
How to Disinherit Your Ex-Spouse
If you have an existing will that leaves property to your ex-spouse because you have not updated your estate plan since you were divorced, it is important to either execute codicils and amendments to revise your estate planning documents or execute new ones to revoke any bequests to your ex and make the disinheritance clear.In most states, even after your divorce is final, if you have not revised or replaced the will you made during marriage, and your estate planning documents make a bequest to the ex-wife or ex-husband, your ex will be entitled to inherit because your will was not amended or a new will was not made after the divorce. In most cases, this results in an outcome you do not intend. To print your own will forms, you can use
estate planning software.What if you are legally separated from your spouse but not divorced? You can make a new will or revise your existing will with a codicil after you file for divorce or while proceedings are in process, to make clear your intentions that your spouse not inherit from your estate. If you have minor children, this is also extremely important in terms of guardianship. See single parents.
How to Change Your Will to Disinherit an Heir
If you are ready to amend your will or make a new will, see:1. Change My Will 2. Wills and TrustsBefore changing your will to disinherit heirs, consult an attorney to ensure you use the required language to prevent a will contest or a costly legal dispute over your estate.
Prevent Claims by Disinherited Heirs
When you disinherit an heir, there is a strong possibility a claim may be filed against your estate. An estate planning lawyer can assist you in taking the following steps to support the disinheritance:
1. Have no-contest clauses added to your estate planning documents.2. Make your will a
Self-Proving Will.3. Have a residuary clause added to your will.4. Have your will signing videotaped.5. Write a letter explaining your reasons for disinheriting the heir and attach it to your will. See estate plan letter.
How to Disinherit a Child
With the exception of a few states, you are not required to leave anything to your children, provided you make a valid will leaving your entire estate to other beneficiaries. There is no requirement that you state a reason in your will about why you disinherited your child. You can give a reason if you choose. See estate plan letter. You can leave all your property to your spouse and nothing to your children. An alternative is to leave all your property to your spouse and name your children as contingent beneficiaries to inherit your estate if your spouse dies before you.The law presumes you would want your child to inherit from your estate, so to overcome that presumption, your will must show you did not unintentionally overlook your child and were not operating under a mistake when you omitted your child from your will. For this reason, to effectively disinherit a child, you must specifically mention the child in your will and use language to indicate you have intentionally failed to make any provision for that child. If you fail to mention your child in your will, the state may award the child his intestate share of your estate as if you died without a will, meaning your child will receive an
If you have considered disinheriting your adult child because of issues in your relationship, you are not alone. This is one of the most common reasons for will changes, codicils and making new wills. If you want to disinherit your adult child, it may be a good idea to talk with someone close to you to consider other opinions. Before finalizing changes to your estate plan to disinherit one of your legal heirs, make sure you are unlikely to change your mind about the disinheritance. Because of the costs involved in making a valid will or codicil, it is important to be certain about your decision.If you are planning to disinherit an illegitimate child that you acknowledged throughout his or her life as your own, this type of disinheritance often results in a lawsuit against the estate. See NonMarital Children.Because each state has its own unique laws regarding what a child is entitled to inherit, review the laws of your state before you make an estate plan. For example, Florida law protects a surviving spouse and child from total disinheritance by requiring the head of a family to leave his home or residence to his spouse or child. If you use a boilerplate will form, you could violate important state laws that prevent your estate from being distributed according to your wishes.It is important to distinguish between disinheriting a child and leaving property to your children in unequal shares. Parents may divide their estate in unequal shares for a variety of reasons. If you are considering leaving one child a larger inheritance or want to protect one child's inheritance from another, see unequal shares and adult child's inheritance.
Disinheritance Language for Wills
To the extent an heir can be disinherited under state laws, sample disinheritance language for a will is: I have intentionally failed to provide for my daughter, Jane. Be sure to mention each of your children by name in your will, even if you include language to disinherit one of them. Only a lawyer licensed in your state can advise on the language necessary to make your will or trust provisions enforceable.It is a common misconception that the legal way to disinherit someone is to leave the sum of one dollar or some other nominal amount to the heir in your will. Leaving your child one dollar does not prevent him from contesting a will. Whatever language you include in your will, you cannot prevent an heir from filing a lawsuit against your estate. Any person who has standing and states a claim can contest a will.
How to Disinherit Other Heirs
If you have no surviving spouse, children or grandchildren, your surviving next of kin, such as siblings, parents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, may inherit from your estate if you die without a will. If you do not want certain relatives to inherit your property, make a will and use appropriate language to disinherit them. See greedy heirs and disinherit a parent.
Disinheritance and Living Trusts
If you make a living trust, you should still make a pour over will to disinherit an heir. See types of wills. Most states require a will be used to disinherit someone rather than other estate planning documents. If you fail to make a will, the heir you intend to disinherit may still inherit from your estate because the disinheritance was not done properly.
Do You Have Pretermitted Heirs?
A pretermitted heir is a child, spouse or other descendant of the testator that was not mentioned in the will of the testator but would have inherited a share of the estate under state laws if there was no will. If you fail to mention your spouse or child in your will, even if you are estranged, in most states your spouse or child has the right to inherit from your estate under state intestacy laws. For example, if you have a child born after the date of your last will and the child is not mentioned in your will, such child usually has the right to inherit from your estate as if you had died intestate. Related articles: NonMarital Children.