So You Want To Disinherit

Don’t disinherit your kids if you can help it. There are many reasons people sometimes feel that way, but there is one secret! It’s not uncommon for folks to approach me and say, “we want to leave things to our kids but not this kid,” and I understand that there’s always things going on with families. There’s always more than meets the eye.

Tricky Business

First off, I always discourage people from doing this. If there’s a way to bring that person back into the fold during life, please do this. Of course, I know you would do it if you could, and often, there’s a lot to be said for leaving or letting bygones be bygones and not extending that acrimony indefinitely after death. That said, sometimes you can’t get around it. So here’s the one thing you need to make sure you always do.

The Secret

If you’re disinheriting someone from your will or revocable trust, don’t wholly disinherit them. That may sound a bit strange and sound a bit counterintuitive, but here’s the problem with leaving somebody zero. There is no incentive not to hire a lawyer and challenge the will.

Why This Works

If they’re not getting anything anyway, then what’s the worst-case scenario? They pay some lawyer bills, and they end up with nothing. That’s if there are thousands or tens of thousands or a hundred thousand, or a million dollars at stake here. That’s a low-risk proposition. Here’s what we always do when we’re in this situation — we still leave them something. For example, let’s say the parents have three children. Two of them are getting most of it, and we’re giving 50,000 10,000 $5,000 to the child we do not wish to include. And then we have a provision in the document that says if anybody challenges this document, they lose their inheritance. So what we’ve just done is created a disincentive for them to sue.

A Caveat

Now, I’ll give you a little disclaimer; each state is a little inconsistent on whether this is enforceable or not. But I can tell you one thing: when someone sees the provision, it decreases the likelihood of them wanting to sue. An inheritance of five, ten, 30, or 50,000 hundred thousand dollars — it all depends on the estate — decreases the likelihood that they will challenge it because they might lose. Losing something is scarier than losing nothing. So, my advice is always don’t disinherit the kids. If it happens, and I know it does, make sure to give them some inheritance.