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How to Address an Estranged Family Member in your Estate Plan

It would be great if everyone could get along, and planning for your children or grandchildren in your estate plan would be simple. But, unfortunately, it’s not always the case. Families can have different dynamics and conflicts for various reasons, making things a bit more complex when creating an estate plan. This makes it essential to address everything and everyone explicitly.

However, suppose you fail to make an estate plan that addresses your estranged family members before you pass away or become incapacitated. In that case, it is possible that your wishes will not be honored. This is because most states have laws called rules of intestate succession, which determine who receives your property if you pass away without a will. In addition, some states have rules regarding an omitted child, which means that if you fail to make it clear that they are not to inherit from your estate, they may still be able to claim your assets. 

Fortunately, there are several strategies to avoid these pitfalls.

No Contest Clause

If you want to lessen your family’s chance of starting a legal battle over your will, consider leaving them a small inheritance. When doing this, you can include a no-contest clause in your will which states that if they contest or challenge the will and are not successful, they receive no inheritance, not even the smaller one you included. 

Of course, most people don’t want to lose what little inheritance they are being offered, so they don’t contest the will.

Outright Disinheritance

If you don’t want your grandchildren or children to inherit anything, you can state in your will or trust that you are intentionally not providing for that person. Although it sounds harsh, you must state this information explicitly to avoid legal battles in the future. 

Be aware, though, that disinheriting a child who is confused or angry about being disinherited could result in that child contesting the will. So make sure an experienced estate planning attorney drafts this document to ensure the strategy is effective.

Create a Trust

If you don’t want to leave money directly to a family member because

you feel they would be irresponsible, consider leaving it to a trust instead. A trust can be designed in almost infinite ways and is great for giving you control over the terms in which a family member can receive and spend your money. 

For example, you can specify that the funds be used for education expenses or that the beneficiary meets specific requirements before receiving a distribution, such as graduating from college or being drug-free.

Do You Need Help With Your Estate Plan?

Every family is unique, so there is no one size fits all method for creating an estate plan. For this reason, you must seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney when creating your plan, especially if you plan to leave someone out of your will.

We specialize in educating and helping you protect what you have for the people you love the most. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.