How Do I Disinherit Someone from My Will?
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How Do I Disinherit Someone from My Will?

FastWill is here to answer more common questions such as, what does it mean to disinherit someone from a Will? And how do I disinherit someone? Keep reading to learn more about what this process entails.

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If you’ve ever watched Days of Our Lives or The Young and the Restless, you’ve no doubt seen storylines about the reading of the will. The characters are gathered around the lawyer as he makes a stunning announcement:  the dead family patriarch has disinherited a wayward family member and announced that someone else is his secret son. Oh, the drama!  Art does imitate life - and you can disinherit someone from your will. 

What Does It Mean to Disinherit Someone From a Will?

What does it mean to disinherit someone from your last will and testament?  It means excluding them from receiving property or assets after your pass away.  Before you disinherit someone, you’ll need to consider whether your decision will inspire soap opera levels of drama and conflict among your family members.  

Of course, there are often valid reasons to disinherit someone. When people divorce or separate, they often make it explicit in their wills that their former partner cannot inherit from their estate. Sometimes a parent has already given significant gifts to a child during their lifetime and would prefer to see the balance of their estate left to other children or family members. In other situations, the person may no longer have a relationship with their children, disagree with their lifestyle choices, or believe that their child is too immature to handle an inheritance.

Can You Legally Disinherit Your Children from Your Will?

Yes, children can generally be excluded from a person’s last will and testament.  For a disinheritance to be legally valid, you’ll need to state explicitly that you do not want your child to receive any of your assets when you pass away. In some cases, you may also exclude your child’s descendants from inheriting. You may choose to exclude their children from their will in the following circumstances:

  • the children have received their inheritance in advance, while the parents are still living

  • a marriage ended in divorce and the person wants to disinherit step-children

  • you want to leave your estate to charity

  • you have no relationship with your child. 

Can You Disinherit a Spouse in a Will?

In most common law states, you can disinherit your current spouse, but the spouse almost always has legal recourse. In common law states, the surviving spouse is entitled to one-third to one-half of the estate assets acquired during the marriage. In most common law jurisdictions, a disinherited spouse then has a legal right to contest the will. In some states, the spouse only has to file a Right of Election form to dispute the will, while in other states the disinterested spouse will need to hire a lawyer and launch a formal case contesting the will.  In most community property states, such as California, the surviving spouse has a legal right to half of the estate assets acquired during the marriage. To disinherit the spouse, your best option is to negotiate a contract with the spouse excluding them from inheritance.

How to Disinherit Someone From Your Will

Step One:  Make sure that your jurisdiction allows you to legally disinherit that person. There may be restrictions for disinheriting spouses and children, but there are usually no restrictions on excluding parents and other relatives.

Step Two:  Update your will by adding a disinheritance clause. Once you’ve decided to disinherit someone, and you understand the law in your state, then you must update your written will or draft a new Last Will and Testament. You can include a reason for disinheriting the person if you want to, but this is not required.  Since this is your last statement on the matter, be sure that you make your wishes absolutely clear.  Describe who you are disinheriting, state their relationship to you, and say that you want them cut entirely from your will.

The bottom line is that if you don’t want someone to inherit anything from you, you have to put it in writing, or the court will distribute the assets according to the law. If you write a DIY will, you must say that you totally exclude that person from inheritance.

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