Disinheriting a child is an emotional process, and can be challenging to accomplish. Here are three things to consider when disinheriting a child.
(1) Determine if you want to disinherit your grandchildren as well. You should carefully consider whether you are just disinheriting a child, or the child and any of that child’s descendants. Occasionally the reasons that parents disinherit a child are particular to that child. Perhaps the child has a drug problem or is an absentee parent. In this instance, the grandparents likely still care very much for their grandchildren and would want to provide for them. If this is the case, the grandparents will want to be careful not to exclude their grandchildren, though at the same time will want to make sure that the disinherited child cannot access the inherited property through the grandchildren. Trusts are useful for successfully navigating this problem.
(2) Do you need to “bait” the disinheritance? Most estate plans have a no-contest provision or an in terrorem clause. Essentially this provision disinherits anyone who contests your Will or Trust. Practically speaking, these provisions are only good if a person has something to lose. If a child is already disinherited, they can’t lose any more of your estate by bringing a lawsuit. Therefore, if you think you have a litigious child, one that might bring a lawsuit, it may be worth baiting the no-contest provision of your estate plan. This means giving the child just enough, and only just enough, so they have something to lose if they bring a contest.
(3) Carefully reflect on your reasons for disinheriting a child. Not all disinheritances are due to animosity between a parent and a child. Perhaps a child is being disinherited because of a substance abuse problem or they are incredibly irresponsible with money. In that instance, a Trust arrangement could help manage the money for the child without placing the child at risk because of the sudden inheritance. As another example, perhaps a child is being disinherited because that child has more than enough wealth already, or another child has a much greater need for the property. If you just assume your children understand the reasons for your decision, but they do not, then it is much more likely there will be conflict and disharmony between your children at a later time. Communication is the best tool for assuaging hurt feelings and clearing up misunderstandings. If you take the time to explain your decisions to your children, they will usually come to accept your reasons.