I get it, not all family relationships are created equal. Maybe you have a daughter who has made some seriously poor decisions in life thus far, or maybe a son who has practically written you off as their parent (or vice versa). I’m not here to judge your relationships. Whatever the reason for the fall-out, if you have a less-than-ideal relationship with a family member, you may be thinking that you’d prefer that they not benefit from your life of hard work. Here are two ways to make sure that doesn’t happen:
If you’ve got assets, it’s your right to decide how they will be distributed after you’re gone. If you don’t make that decision, the state’s rules of intestacy (dying without a will) will control how who gets your assets and in what amounts. If it’s a close family member, like a parent or child, the state’s rules will normally provide an interest to them in your estate. So, in order to make sure that the state’s rules don’t apply, you need to create a will. In your will, leave your assets to people other than the individual you wish to disinherit and include a clause that expresses your wish to disinherit that individual.
This is probably the easiest way to disinherit someone, however, if they would have received an interest in your estate had you not disinherited them, they may file a caveat to challenge the validity of your will – which would result in litigation and more issues with you and that individual. It’s not that common, but the possibility is there.
Another way to go about disinheriting someone is to remove assets from your estate so that you have no assets for your will or the state’s default rules to control. This can be done in one of two ways (or a combination of both):
(A) transfer all of your assets to a living trust. Living trusts can be used, quite effectively, to avoid probate and direct the disposition of your assets in a more structured manner. By using a trust-based estate plan, you will also avoid any will caveats that may have otherwise happened under 1. above; or
(B) title all of your assets: (1) jointly with right of survivorship; (2) in a transfer on death (TOD) account; or (3) in a payable on death (POD) account. These mechanisms also help your assets to avoid probate or estate administration and prevent the potential of a caveat to your will.
However you wish to do it, the worst thing you can do is wait around and do nothing. Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one.