Unfortunately, not all families get along – and some rifts run deeper than others. If you are having problems with one or more of your children and are considering what roles, if any, they should have in your estate plan, there are a number of strategies for addressing these scenarios.
Estate Planning Strategies For Estranged Child/ren:
Depending on the level of estrangement and the reasons behind it, you can opt to treat a child differently in your Estate Plan.
- Outright disinheritance. If you really do not want your child to receive anything from you, you can fully disinherit the child. However, this option involves a risk that he or she may challenge the Will in court.
To be safe, even if you are leaving a child nothing, you should specifically mention the child in the will and state that you are disinheriting him or her; failing to do so could make it easier for him or her to challenge the will. (You also need to specify whether you are disinheriting that child’s children, too.)
There are other steps you can take to try preventing a Will contest. These include making sure your Will is properly executed, writing a letter to the estranged child to explain your reasoning, and removing any appearance of undue influence. Keep in mind, however, that nothing is foolproof.
- Smaller inheritance. If you don’t want to disinherit your child entirely or wish to make it less likely the estranged child will contest the will, you may want to leave them an inheritance that is smaller than the amount you leave to other beneficiaries.
Leaving a child a reduced inheritance may prevent him or her from contesting the Will, especially if you include a no-contest clause (also called an “in terrorem clause”) in the document. A no-contest clause provides that if an heir challenges the Will and loses, then he or she will get nothing. You must leave the heir enough so that a challenge is not worth the risk of losing the inheritance.
- Put the inheritance in a Trust. If the reason you do not want to leave your child an inheritance is because you are worried about how they will use the money, you can leave the child’s inheritance in a Testamentary Trust.
With this method, you can set parameters on how your child will receive funds – including providing instructions to the trustee on when and how the trustee should disburse the funds in the trust. For example, you can instruct the trustee to disburse the money in small increments or only if the child meets certain conditions, like staying drug- or alcohol-free or working a full-time job.
How The Law Office of Antoinette Bone Can Help:
As Leo Tolstoy wrote in Anna Karenina, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Figuring out how to treat an estranged child in your estate plan is complicated and emotional. Consult your attorney to determine the best strategy for you.
With no two family or personal situations exactly the same, we at the Law Office of Antoinette Bone take a personalized approach to address each client’s unique needs and considerations. We look forward to helping you customize an Estate Plan that does just that.
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Nothing in this message is intended to provide legal advice. This message is for educational purposes only.