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Can I disinherit my kids?  Maybe. According to Tinsel Town, a parent can always disinherit their kids.  But not so in the real world. In most instances you can. However, that also depends on the state and the facts of your particular situation. Generally, the law does not permit a parent to disinherit their minor child until they reach the age of majority. In some states the age of majority is eighteen and in others it’s twenty-one. The exception is Louisiana (with certain limitations).  

Reasons for disinheriting an adult child?

There are a number of reasons parents choose to disinherit a child, among them are:

  1. The parent is estranged from the child.
  2. The adult child has accumulated sufficient wealth and does not need the money.
  3. The parent believes that the adult child will misuse any inheritance, especially if they proved to be financially irresponsible.
  4. The child has a substance abuse problem.
  5. The child is married to, or in relationship with someone the parent feels poses a threat.

Regardless of the reasons, it’s not a smart idea to totally disinherit a child. Why not? They could retaliate by challenging the validity of your estate documents. Then, by dragging your beneficiaries into court, such a legal proceeding could delay your family’s access to their rightful inheritances. 

Including a no-contest provision in your estate documents could be helpful in circumventing challenges to a will. These provisions basically state that anyone who challenges the validity of a will or trust and loses, will get nothing even the inheritance they would have originally received. One issue is these clauses are not valid in all states, such as Florida. Other states have enacted carve-outs making it easy for the disinherited to win.  

What are some options?

  1. Draft your estate plan to leave your child a nominal amount. By leaving the child something, you make it difficult for them to argue that you wanted to disinherit them. Instead, it shows you wanted to leave them something. This display is more likely to discourage a legal challenge, because your child will lose everything if they lose in court.   
  1. A second option to put any money intended for the adult child into a trust, with a trusted person or entity serving as the trustee. The trust could provide that a small amount be disseminated at certain intervals or ages, or at the discretion of the trustee.

How do I disinherit my child?

First and foremost, create a substantial paper trail. Clearly document your intentions in your estate plan. If you avoid this important step, your child could receive money you don’t want them to have under your state’s intestacy rules.  Make sure you identify the child by name in your estate documents. Otherwise, you set the stage for the disinherited child to challenge the validity of your documents by saying you didn’t intend to omit them.  

Call our office.

Decisions regarding how you want to pass your money and property to your children after you die can be tough, and ensuring your desires are legally carried out can be complicated. You do not need to face those challenges by yourself, however. I am here to help.

Francine D. Ward
Attorney-At-Law, Author, Speaker

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