As the hit show Succession has taught audiences, there is no guarantee that adult children will inherit a title, business, assets or properties during the lifetime of a parent or at their death. When beneficiaries, such as a child, discover that they are not named in a will, this could spark many questions and even give rise to an action to contest the will during the probate process.
Disinheriting a child
When an individual believes that disinheriting a child is necessary, it is important that one approaches this process carefully and well informed. It can be very emotional, as it could have significant ramifications if the child discovers this occurred during the lifetime of the parent. Additionally, if this is the true wish of a parent, it should be noted that a child will likely contest this in order to have these wishes overruled. Thus, it is imperative that it is done in such a way that it is clear decision that was made without any undue influence.
Factors to consider
It is important to be clear, but not too clear. If specifics are listed for not entrusting certain assets to a child, it is possible that these will no longer be accurate at the time of a parent’s death. This opens the door to challenge the will.
Oftentimes, a parent seeks to disinherit a child because of his or her behavior. However, one should not use this to control their behavior. There are other ways to accomplish this without specifically stating these wishes. By creating a living trust, a child’s inheritance is controlled. This means it could be nothing or only small amounts over a period of time. It is also possible to give a person the power of appointment. A trustee could, over time, re-inherit a child, if certain terms are met.
A parent could also leave a modest bequest instead of completely disinheriting a child. This could illustrate that they were not completely forgotten and reduce the chances of the will being contested. Finally, one could include a no-contest clause. Most states allow for such a clause, which states that if any beneficiaries challenge the will, they will lose what was given to them in the will.
Disinheriting a child is a challenging and emotional estate planning issue as it could present major issues during probate and estate administration. Thus, it is imperative that individuals understand how best to meet their wishes and how best to protect their assets and avoid any challenges to one’s will.