The majority of couples decide to leave their property to their children in equal amounts. However, some couples decide to disinherit a child. This sometimes seems to be a legitimate or the best decision, but that may not be true. Sometimes the parent-child relationship seems beyond repair but can actually be saved, while other children seem to be particularly successful, but may not be so.
Consequences of Disinheriting
No matter what the motivations are, the decision to disinherit a child cannot be changed and will almost certainly have long-lasting negative consequences. While you suppose that a disinherited child will direct their anger at you (even though you are dead), the reality is that they take that anger out on their siblings. They often do this by suing their siblings for their share of the inheritance, which leads to acrimony and large legal fees.
When the Decision to Disinherit a Child May not Work
The decision to disinherit a child can prove to be short-sight and sometimes even not needed. For example:
- A child that you think may be financially stable may actually be struggling, and their share of the inheritance may have been able to help them. Also, even if they are stable now, finances change, divorce happens, or medical needs may arise, and they may need that inheritance.
- A family member who is disabled may qualify for government aid either now or in the future. Many of those aid programs require that the applicant have minimal assets and income. That does not mean that you have to disinherit them. Rather, a special needs trust would be the appropriate legal solution in this situation.
- A descendant who is currently immature or who cannot handle money may turn their life around. Also, there are estate planning options to limit their access to their inheritance rather than simply disinheriting them. This allows your trustee to have the flexibility needed to provide assistance as needed and deserved.
Your estate plan can encapsulate your parenting style, your values, and morals. In some ways, your estate plan is the last time that your children will interact with you. Giving a struggling child their inheritance can express forgiveness, trust, and love. Meanwhile, disinheriting a child can express the opposite and leave a negative last impression.
If your current estate plan is disinheriting a child, you should discuss your plan with an estate planning attorney. You may also want to think about talking with that child about your relationship and your estate plan. That may help make amends and also help your child prepare for your estate plan to take effect.