Family dynamics are difficult, and there are times when a person may not want to leave anything from their estate to a certain family member. This is generally known as disinheriting. Disinheriting can happen by omission when you first draw up a will, or it can be done by changing your plans to remove that person.
If you want to do this, though, there are a few smart ways to go about it in order to ensure success. What are these? Here are five tips to make sure your wishes are followed.
1. Check State Rules First
While you have the freedom to do many things with your own estate, there are a few boundaries. When it comes to disinheriting someone, the most common limitations are state rules regarding who cannot be totally disinherited. This often includes your spouse and dependent children. Check with an attorney to learn about other rules.
2. State Your Wishes Clearly
Just leaving out one or more family members from your will seems like an easy way to disinherit them. However, omitting them entirely could backfire. They may have a better chance of contesting the will by claiming it was an error. Instead, clearly spell out your wishes if you want a particular relative to receive nothing.
3. Consider a Small Bequest
Rather than giving someone nothing, consider leaving them a small amount of money or personal items. You benefit from this in two ways. First, it's a way to clearly stipulate your wishes and prevent the person from claiming you just forgot anything. Second, it can reduce family fallout from an intentional, painful snub.
4. Don't Bother With Distant Relatives
States have an order of precedence for inheritance. It usually starts with spouses, children, siblings, and parents. So if you want to disinherit a more distant relative, you may not even need to address it directly. If you have many closer relations before your boyfriend-stealing cousin, that cousin isn't going to get anything anyway.
5. Change the Whole Will
Do you want to remove someone from an existing will? While you can make certain changes by attaching a codicil to the current will, this may not be a good way to disinherit someone. It leaves too much open for interpretation. Instead, take the time to write a new will and specify that it replaces the old.
Where to Start
When you disinherit someone, you want to have confidence that your wishes will be fulfilled after you're gone. The best way to do this is to apply these tips and work with a will planning attorney in your state. Make an appointment to learn more.