While most parents opt to leave their estate split equally between their children, others disinherit one or more children for several reasons. They may be concerned about a special needs child receiving government benefits, feel one child is more financially independent than another or not want to leave money to a drug-addicted or troubled child who will spend it irresponsibly. Parents also disinherit because a child is estranged, and some even use it as a way to get the last word and get even after an argument. Parents need reminders that disinheritance is permanent and can cause terrible feelings that last between living children even after you are gone, so there are a few things you should consider before you make this decision.
Is a trust an option?
If you do not want your child to have their entire inheritance up front but do not want to go so far as disinheriting them, a trust may be a viable alternative. A trust determines when money is disbursed and when payments are made to the heir, allowing you to leave an inheritance but keep strings attached to how it is spent. There can also be incentives for staying clean and sober from drugs and alcohol, working a full-time job or going to college. A trust may be a better way to control what your child gets than completely cutting him or her out of the will.
Special needs children may require some type of assistance from the government that is only available to those with little income and few assets. This does not mean you must disinherit your special needs child to ensure he or she gets care, but you may also set up a special needs trust to pay for care.
Do not use disinheritance as a motivator for behavior
If you use an inheritance as a motivator to change your child's behavior, the behavior is likely to come back immediately after your child gets the money. If you truly feel your child's behavior warrants disinheritance, explain this and give reasons why.
Your intentions must be clear
If you make the final decision to completely disinherit a child or any other living heir, the decision must be clear in your will. Do not just leave it blank and leave them out of it completely. You should specifically state in your will that you do not want one of your children to receive any money or assets from you. This helps protect your heirs from future will contestation.
Whether you are planning your estate, writing a will or disinheriting your children from your current will or estate, we encourage you to seek the professional advice of an attorney.