No family is perfect, but some relationships between parents and their adult children are more strained than others. Some people rarely speak to one or more of their children or have no relationship with them at all anymore. If things between you and one of your children seem to have passed the point of salvation, you might be thinking of disinheriting them in your will.
This is something you can do, but it’s not a decision to take lightly. A child, grandchild or other family member is likely to be upset when they find out they are receiving less than their siblings, or nothing at all, from you. And though you can always make changes to your estate plan during your lifetime, once you are gone, your final wishes are what they are. You need to be certain that this is what you really want.
Alternatives to consider
It can be tempting to use the inheritance as a way of controlling your child’s behavior, such as by leaving them nothing unless they get married, quit drinking, etc. This often fails and causes more harm than good. Also, if your concern is that your son or daughter is terrible with money and would spend their inheritance on frivolous purchases or bad investments, you could use a living trust as an alternative to disinheritance. The trustee would control the funds and disburse them to the beneficiary in small payments or pay their bills instead of the inheritance going directly to the person. Finally, leaving the person a small inheritance can soften the blow.
Let the family know now, not later
If you have considered all alternatives and still believe that disinheritance is for the best, it is best to make your intentions clear during your life. Keeping the disinheritance a surprise for after you are gone might help you avoid an uncomfortable conversation. But it is also likely to lead to a will challenge by the disinherited relative that will drag out the probate process and could cause a permanent rift in your family.
You should also make sure your intentions are very clear in your will, trust and other estate planning documents. Your estate planning attorney will be a valuable resource for drafting your plan in a way that leaves no doubt about who should inherit your legacy and who should not.