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Clarity on a disinheritance can limit disputes

You are free to disinherit your children in your estate plan if you would like to do so. You can do it for any reason or for no reason at all.

One thing to remember, however, is that a lack of clarity can lead to estate disputes. It's best to be open and honest with your children about what your intentions. If they're not sure, they can make assumptions that lead to disputes you could otherwise have avoided.


A case-in-point

Perhaps you have four children. You plan to leave your money to three of them, split evenly. The fourth child had a falling out with your entire family a decade ago and left Florida. Since it was never resolved, you opt to leave that child nothing.

To most of your family, this may seem like an obvious course of action. But that lack of clarity and guidance can potentially lead to a dispute if the fourth child argues that you still meant to leave them something. An estate plan that says nothing at all about them could appear to be one that you made in error. They could also argue that the other three siblings, living closer to you, influenced you to leave them out when you wanted to include them.

That does not mean your child will get the money if they contest your will. But it may still cause a dispute that is costly and emotionally difficult for everyone involved.

What to write

A good way to give clarity, even beyond having a conversation with your children, is to make clearly write your estate plan. This shows that you chose to do it and you meant to do it, cutting off a potential will contest.

If you'd like, you can say why you decided to disinherit the child. That may help overcome accusations of undue influence. But, it is not necessary for you to do so. There is no obligation to explain yourself.

Your options

Estate planning, especially when thinking about disputes and unique provisions, can get complicated. It is very important to understand all the options you have and to think carefully about how to set up your plan.


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