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Should you omit someone from your will to disinherit them?

When someone makes an estate plan, they decide how they want to distribute their assets. Certain people may expect to inherit, such as children or a spouse. Disinheriting someone means cutting them out of the estate plan despite this expectation.

Not everyone can be disinherited. For example, a spouse may have the right to a statutory inheritance no matter what a will says. But the terms of an estate plan can disinherit many beneficiaries who may have expected to inherit or who were included in a previous version of the will in question.

It may take more than an omission

Some people will try to disinherit beneficiaries by declining to mention them in their estate planning paperwork. Someone with three children may write a will instructing the estate administrator to divide all assets between two of their children, for instance. They believe that an omission makes it clear that the third child is supposed to get nothing.

But, in many cases, omitting someone from an estate plan is not enough. It’s better to include a clause in one’s will directly stating that a specific individual is not supposed to receive any assets. Another tactic that people sometimes use to make their intentions clearly known is to leave someone a very small amount of assets, like leaving them a dollar.

Either way, the goal of these efforts is to show that the omission of a beneficiary is intentional. It’s not an oversight. That person wasn’t forgotten. Another heir didn’t fraudulently delete their name from the estate plan. By including a disinheritance clause, what the writer wanted is clear to all involved. This lowers the odds of an estate dispute.

Drafting your plan

Estate planning can get complicated, especially when significant assets are being addressed or issues like disinheriting a child arise. If you are thinking about drafting a plan this year, make sure you know exactly what legal steps you’ll need to take moving forward. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to get started.

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