Disinheriting Family Members

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What is Disinheritance?

To disinherit someone is to intentionally keep them from receiving something from your estate after you die.  Disinheritance is usually accomplished by stating in your will that you do not want that person to inherit anything. 

Can I Disinherit My Spouse?

It is not possible to completely disinherit your spouse unless they agreed to be disinherited in a legal agreement.  All states have laws that prevent a person from otherwise disinheriting the surviving spouse.  These laws give the surviving spouse the right to choose what they receive upon their spouse's death. 

If the will leaves nothing to the surviving spouse, the state's law will allow him or her to inherit a certain amount, which is usually one-third or one-half of the deceased spouse's estate.  If the will does leave the surviving spouse something, he or she has the right to choose between what was left in the will, or the amount of money set by the state's laws.  In community property states it is not possible to disinherit the surviving spouse because he or she legally owns one-half of the marital property. 

Can I Disinherit My Child?

In all states except Louisiana, it is possible to completely disinherit your child.  However, because courts do not like to see children disinherited, the will must state explicitly that the child receives nothing under the will.  If the will simply makes no mention of the child at all, it may be possible for the child to contest the will. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Disinherit a Family Member?

If you are writing your will, you may want to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney.  An estate planning attorney can help you draft a will that legally disinherits whomever you wish.

If you were disinherited by a family member's will, talk to a wills and trusts attorney to find out if the disinheritance was proper and what rights you have under the law. 

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Last Modified: 08-26-2011 02:11 PM PDT

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