All families experience conflicts, but if it is to a particularly severe extent, you may not want one of your children to reap the benefits of your estate. There are different strategies for handling an estranged child in your estate plan. Based on the level and reasons surrounding estrangement, you may want to take one of three different approaches.
If you are certain you do not want your child to receive anything, you may completely disinherit the child. As a precautionary measure, even if you are leaving them nothing, be sure to explicitly state that you are disinheriting the child in your last will and testament. If you do not, it can make it easier for them to challenge the will.
Given the nature of disinheritance, it comes with a significant legal risk; he or she may contest the will in court. This can cost you time and money. There are steps you can take to prevent this, such as making sure your will is properly executed and removing the appearance of undue influence. An estate attorney can help with this by legally protecting your assets. Another method you can take in order to decrease significant legal risk is to create a trust. Speaking with an attorney about your legal options is an effective way to make sure your assets are protected from family members and creditors.
2. Smaller Inheritance
If you do not want to disinherit your child entirely, you may leave an inheritance smaller than that of your other beneficiaries. A reduced inheritance is less of a legal risk, especially if you include a no-contest clause. However, you must leave them enough to make it not worth the risk of losing the inheritance.
3. Inheritance in a Trust
If you are concerned about giving your child an inheritance because of how they may use the money, you may leave it in a testamentary trust. You can provide specifications on when and how the trustee should use the funds. To find out more about drafting a testamentary trust, schedule a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Additionally, many estate planning attorneys suggest writing a letter to enforce the reasoning behind the disinheritance. This could either be interpreted as clarifying your intentions or instigating more problems. It is important to consult your estate attorney before taking any estate-planning action with an estranged child.