What You Should Know About Disinheriting Someone From Your Will?

Unfortunately, just because someone is "family" doesn't always mean that you like the person — or want to leave them something in your will. What do you do if you want to disinherit someone? This is what you should know.

You Cannot Disinherit Your Spouse

No matter how bad your relationship is with a spouse, you usually cannot disinherit one. The exact rights each one has varies according to the laws of your state, and you cannot override those laws. 

Disinheriting Others Can Be Accomplished, But Be Clear

You are under no legal obligation to provide anything in your will to your other relatives, including adult children. However, you want to make sure that the court understands that your intentions are very specific.

For that reason, your will should:

  • include language that states that anyone not named in the will is left out intentionally, not accidentally.
  • specifically name close relatives, such as adult children, grandchildren, parents and siblings with language that makes it clear that you have not forgotten them, but are choosing to designate another beneficiary instead.
  • consider leaving a small gift or memento to close relatives, as a way of showing that they were not inadvertently forgotten.
  • destroy any old wills so that there is no confusion due to changes in your desires over time.
  • include language that voids all previous wills.

Consider Adding A No-Contest Clause To Your Will

A "no-contest" clause to your will is designed to discourage challenges to the will. A no-contest clause generally includes language that says that a person who challenges your will will get nothing at all from you. Not all states recognize them, but in states that do, it can be a useful tool to protect your wishes.

Keep in mind that a no-contest clause only works to discourage someone who has something to lose. In other words, you have to give someone a reason to be willing to accept the will as it stands, rather than risk losing what you are leaving them.

For example, assume that you have no children. Instead, you have two sisters, but you only have a good relationship with one of them. If you try to leave your entire estate to the sister you like, you're afraid that your other sister will challenge the will.

A solution could be to leave the sister you dislike a small inheritance of $10,000. In addition, you add a no-contest clause, which states that if she forfeits the $10,000 if she tries to challenge your will. In some states, you can even oblige her to pay for any court costs and your other sister's attorney fees if she tries to contest the will and loses.

Your sister could still decide to challenge the will after you die, but it can be very difficult to overcome someone's clear intentions in a carefully prepared will. Once you sister learns that (presumably from her attorney), she may decide that it makes more sense just to accept the $10,000 and be done.

There are a lot of complex issues that can affect the validity of your will, and there's no substitute for the assistance of an experienced attorney, like those at Skeen Law Offices. If you are worried about what some relatives might do to contest your will after you are gone, talk to an attorney who handles estate planning and give yourself peace of mind.