3 steps to take if you plan to disinherit one of your children

| May 14, 2021 | Estate Planning |

Every person has different priorities when they sit down to create an estate plan. Most focus on arranging to leave assets to particular people, but others take a completely different approach.

For some people, the concern is not ensuring that a specific family member receive property but rather that they don’t pass assets or property on to one of their children. Many issues could lead to such a decision, ranging from that child’s mistreatment of their parents to addiction or mental health issues.

If you have a member of your family for whom you do not want to leave an inheritance, you will need to take a few extra steps when planning your estate to avoid them challenging your estate plan and undermining your legacy. 

Add specific language about the disinheritance to your last will

Perhaps the most important thing that you can do to prevent a disinherited child from trying to get property out of your estate is to be explicit in the fact that you intend to disinherit them. Wisconsin does not give children a statutory right of inheritance, but there is typically a presumption that parents will leave assets for their children when they die.

If your last will talks about distributing property among other children or grandchildren, the disinherited family member might claim you unintentionally left them out. You will have to explicitly write about eliminating their inheritance rights to prevent such a challenge.

Add extra documents or language to your estate plan

Depending on how many assets you hold and how likely you think a challenge will be, there are multiple approaches you can take to make it harder for a disinherited family member to fight your wishes in probate court.

For many people, the easiest solution is to add a no-contest clause that disinherits anyone who challenges your last will in court. For those with significant assets or who believe their family member will try to fight their wishes no matter what, moving major assets into a trust can be a smart move.

Tell the family about your estate-planning wishes

Early and open disclosure about the basics of your legacy plans can keep people from feeling upset, confused or disappointed with the terms that you set.

When everyone knows that you intend to just inherit one member, it will be harder for that individual to claim it was a change made late in life due to incompetence or a mistake. Additionally, making the planned disinheritance public knowledge will give your child a chance to come to terms with that decision.

Those with unusual concerns, like protecting a family member with an addiction, often need to be more cautious in their approach to estate planning to avoid challenges that might undermine their wishes.