If you die without having a valid will in place, your heirs will split your assets according to your state’s intestacy laws. These laws are set by the state and generally aren’t subject to change. This can create situations where a person’s property might be distributed in a way that they wouldn’t agree with after they pass away.
In addition, the state process can be costly and may be unpredictable in terms of how long it takes (each case will be different). Most people try to avoid this type of situation by having a will document in place that describes how they want their property to be distributed.
By creating a will, you can very closely control who does and does not receive your property when you die. A valid will document also allows you to disinherit someone who would otherwise have inherited your property via intestacy laws by excluding them from your will.
What Does Disinheritance Mean?
Under estate planning laws, “disinheritance” occurs where you choose to intentionally keep someone from receiving something from your estate upon your death. Typically, you can usually disinherit a person by stating in your will document that you do not want that person to inherit anything. Legally, the person will not be allowed to claim property from your estate.
This is why it is important to have a will document in place, especially if you have specific desires or instructions regarding certain persons or items of property. Without clear instructions in place, it can create situations where the property is distributed in a way that is unsatisfactory.
What If I Didn’t Intend to Disinherit Someone?
A growing problem with inheritance and wills involves what is called “accidental disinheritance”. This type of disinheritance occurs when you actually intended to leave something to an heir. However, due to a faulty will or other problem, your heir ends up not receive anything.
For instance, there may be some grammatical error in a will that causes the person to lose inheritance rights to the property. Or, there may be some confusion or unclarity regarding a person’s name or identity in the will document. These types of errors can lead to accidental disinheritance, along with other legal problems or issues. It could, potentially, make the entire will invalid and force your property to go through intestacy.
Another situation is where a will document is created under situations of fraud, misrepresentation, coercion, or other unfavorable situations. This can create pressure on the creator of the will and may cause them to accidentally disinherit a person that they didn’t mean to.
If the person who has been accidentally disinherited from a will is your child or your spouse, other inheritance laws may protect them by ensuring that they will receive something from your estate. These laws may vary by state, but close and immediate family members will usually have these types of protections they can rely on.
How Can Accidental Disinheritance Be Avoided?
As mentioned, accidental disinheritance is usually the result of some type of error or oversight in a will document. Thus, accidental disinheritance issues can largely avoided by taking steps such as:
- Be clear and precise about exactly how you want your property to be distributed. If any of the provisions or terms are vague or unclear in your will document, it could lead to an accidental disinheritance of a person or many people.
- Make sure your will is formalized in writing and that it meets all the requirements for a valid will in your state. This includes having it properly signed and witnessed. A written will is almost always better than an oral will, as this provides all parties involved with a written document that they can refer to in the event of a will dispute or contest.
- Modify your will if major life changes have happened that require your will to be updated. This includes major changes such as when you get divorced or remarried, or if you have new children (or if other new family members are born).
- Create your will early on life. This will help give you time to make modifications if they are needed. It will also help avoid situations where you may be seriously ill or incapacitated and may not be in the best condition to create a will document.
- Work with a wills, trusts, and estates lawyer when drafting and finalizing your will. An attorney can help review your estate and your will with you to help ensure that there aren’t any mistakes or issues that might lead to an accidental inheritance.
By taking the above steps, you can avoid accidental disinheritance along with all of the other unpleasant legal steps that happen after someone passes away. Death is inevitable, and so many people find that creating a will or estate plan to be depressing or negative. You can help you loved ones easily grieve in the event of your death if you take steps to create a valid will.
Should I Contact a Lawyer for Help with Accidental Disinheritance Issues?
If you have any questions about wills or concerns about accidental disinheritance, you should consult with a wills, trusts, and estates lawyer. Even if you have completed your own will, it is a good idea to have an experienced attorney review and check it for you. A little additional attention now can save your family from quite a bit of distress later on.