Factors to Consider When Disinheriting a Child
In some families, it’s a light-hearted joke. “Make me an amazing dinner or you’re out of the will!” In others, disinheriting a child is serious business. Family estrangements are tragically common, and some parents and children become embroiled in disputes that permanently change, or even destroy, their relationship. If you’re considering disinheriting your child, keep in mind that this is a decision that can have far-reaching reverberations that extend well beyond your death. Here are some things to keep in mind before making this important decision.
The reason you are disinheriting your child might not always be present. So consider how time might change things. Could a child with an addiction eventually get sober? Might you make amends with an estranged child? What if you don’t have time to change your will? What if you change your mind? Disinheriting a child is a deeply hurtful decision that you should not take lightly, or use for revenge.
Take the Decision Seriously
The way you feel today might be quite different from how you feel in a decade. That slight that stings so sharply now might feel comparatively small in the future. So consider how the decision to disinherit your child will affect you. How will you feel as you lie on your death bed? What if you die in an accident, without a chance to reverse the decision? Are you absolutely certain nothing could change your mind? Will leaving your child in dire financial straits feel good to you at the end of your life?
Disinheriting Your Child May Affect Others
Disinheriting your child can end up hurting people you don’t want to hurt. Consider the following:
- What if your child has a child? Would you want that child to be supported?
- If you do not leave money to your child, might other family members feel obligated to support them?
- How might disinheriting your child affect family relationships? Will it cause discord, and undermine quality of life for family members whom you do not wish to harm?
There Are Better Ways to Control Behavior
Many parents disinherit a child in an attempt to better control that child. The problem is the punishment comes too late—after you’re dead, gone, and unable to be affected by your child’s decisions. Disinheritance is a permanent solution with potentially life-altering consequences. Consider an alternative to change your child’s behavior, such as offering them a reward or drawing firmer boundaries.
A Trust Might Be An Alternative
Some parents disinherit a child not out of malice, but because they worry that receiving money could actually harm a child. For example, a drug addicted child might use the money to fund a drug overdose. In cases where you do not want to hurt your child, a trust might be a good alternative. A trust allows you to attach specific conditions to the money, and to elect an administrator who can ensure those conditions are met. For example, you might require that a child with an addiction attend rehab and remain sober for two years, or allow them only to access the money if they first use the money to go to rehab.
Make Your Intentions Clear
Don’t disinherit a child as a surprise. Especially if the child thinks you have a good relationship, this can be a devastating blow. It may also have serious legal implications. Instead, your will should contain plain language indicating your intention to exclude your child. Moreover, your child should know why you disinherited them, and you should discuss this decision with them well ahead of time.
Consult a Lawyer
Don’t draft a will that disinherits your child on your own. You need a lawyer to walk you through the process, and ensure the will can stand up to a challenge. Disinheriting a child can mean years of legal wrangling. This legal wrangling can cost other beneficiaries much of their inheritance, so prevent it with an airtight will written with the aid of a skilled lawyer.
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