Disinheriting Adult Children

September 25, 2021- A client once said to me, “I have five kids, and I don’t like three of them, so I’m leaving everything to the other two and to charity.”  She was one of the nicest and least stressed individuals I have ever met.  In her mid-eighties, she knew what she wanted and had zero qualms or misgivings about it.  The vast majority of my estate planning clients name their children as their beneficiaries; however, there are always those few who do not.  I’ve noticed that these clients tend to hesitate about not naming all of their children or child as a beneficiary.  This hesitancy is often prefaced with, “It’s not that I don’t love my son, it’s just that…”.  Dynamics are different with all families so believing you are going to be viewed as a bad parent to an attorney should never be a reason to hesitate to make the plan you want for your estate.

I have also heard parents say that they want to leave an adult child $1.00 so that the adult child does not contest the will.  I have read varying opinions  on this issue, but I side on the belief that if someone is named in a will as a beneficiary, they are an interested party and must be dealt with in the court process in administering the affairs of the estate.  Having them as an interested party gives them the opportunity to cause problems for the other beneficiaries, who you probably want to receive the bulk of your assets in an efficient and inexpensive manner as possible.  For clarity purposes, “cause problems” can be translated as a situation that is created where fighting parties are handing over lots of money to attorneys because attorneys are the only ones who “win” when beneficiaries and heirs fight. 

Something else that I have heard is that some parents do not want to even name their adult child in the will for fear that just by stating their name, they are automatically a beneficiary.  For my clients, I have recommend against this because I do not want any party claiming that there must have been a mistake in the preparation of the will and that X party should have been named within it.

To handle these issues, and how I handled the issue of the lady with the five children, is to state that there are five children, and three of them are intentionally not being named as beneficiaries.  Handling the issue in this manner clearly states that the disinherited adult children are not beneficiaries and they cannot claim there was a mistake in that they should have been beneficiaries.  As in most areas of life, you cannot speak in absolutes so it’s always possible that someone may still contest, but contesting under these circumstances creates a very difficult hill to surmount.  

In closing, make the decision that is best for you based on accurate information and what you want and not based on misinformation and concern or fear of someone else’s actions or thoughts.

This article does not represent legal representation.