No matter your current age or status in life, it’s important to keep a valid and updated Will to secure your loved ones’ financial future. Sometimes, this means making adjustments when certain people you once intended to leave part of your estate to are no longer an active part of your life.
Disinheritance is the process of removing beneficiaries from your Will. If someone stands to inherit a portion of your financial assets after your death, disinheritance leaves that person with nothing.
Keep in mind that disinheritance differs from simply revising your Will, as it will completely remove a beneficiary from receiving anything. This can happen for several reasons, but sometimes an individual may elect to leave no reason for the disinheritance for a remaining beneficiary.
Reasons to disinherit someone from your Will
Disinheritance is a serious matter, so it’s important to understand what scenarios may render this your best option:
- Divorce: A divorcing couple should always revise their estate plans once their divorce is finalized. Although spousal inheritance rights are terminated upon divorce (i.e., any Will drafted prior to the Final Order of Divorce is rendered invalid if an ex-spouse is named as a beneficiary), you may need to go through your other estate plans, such as power of attorney documents, trusts, or pay-on-death accounts, to ensure your ex is removed from those documents. Additionally, you may need to revise your Will to disinherit any former in-laws you may have added to your estate plans during your marriage, as a divorce decree does not invalidate their inheritance. By taking these steps, you’re setting your children, family members, and future spouse (should you choose to remarry) up for financial success.
- Estrangement: People come in and out of your life. When this happens with family, it’s important to enact financial protections so the family members in your life are set up properly. Should a child or family member become estranged from you, it’s important they’re disinherited.
- Medical/health status: If you have a child or family member with special needs, you may wish to disinherit them from your Will so they are not disqualified from receiving certain government benefits after your death. Or you may need to create a Special Needs Trust for them instead and name their Trust as the beneficiary in your Will so that what you do leave them will not be treated as a countable asset and will therefore not negatively impact their ability to receive such government benefits after your death.
- Decreased financial need: People’s financial situations change over time. As your children and family members live their lives, they could require different amounts of your wealth to keep them afloat. This is an entirely subjective decision and one that will vary widely based on your specific situation.
How to disinherit a family member or loved one
The basis for disinheriting someone comes down to clarity. You want to be explicit about your intentions – and ensure your documents are valid and properly drafted – so there can be no dispute over how your estate is handled.
1. Give gifts during your lifetime.
One simple way to ensure the right people receive the right parts of your estate is to gift them to the proper individuals while you are still alive. While this may not always be an ideal scenario, it is a sure-fire way to ensure your wealth is disseminated properly.
2. Designate beneficiaries with no-contest clauses.
While giving major financial gifts to beneficiaries is a good option, it’s not always ideal for people. When your will is drafted, make sure you designate what each beneficiary gets and include a no-contest clause. This clause will reduce conflict among your family and beneficiaries.
3. Include a supplementary letter or video recording.
If you feel strongly about your inheritance, it’s good to include a supplementary letter or video recording explaining why and to whom you are designating who should not receive certain assets. Especially in the case of disinheritance, a supplementary letter or video guarantees that a certain level of clarity is achieved. This means family conflict can be avoided, and a beneficiary’s lawyer cannot try to leverage silence as a way to maximize their position to contest your Will.
4. Have your spouse waive your claim.
This option is especially present in cases of divorce. Upon your passing, your spouse can also waive the right to their share of your inheritance through a postnuptial agreement. This is often included as essential documents in divorce proceedings.
Drafting an air-tight Will and ensuring the right beneficiaries receive the right amounts of your estate can be tricky. The Law Office of Patricia E. Tichenor can help you ensure your estate plans are properly drafted and protect your family’s future. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.