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Can I Disinherit a Family Member in My Estate Plan?

Creating an estate plan allows you to dictate how your assets will be distributed upon your death, including the possibility of disinheriting a family member. At Heritage Law Office, our experienced estate planning attorneys are ready to help you navigate the complex process of estate planning, ensuring your wishes are respected. Contact us either online or at 414-253-8500 to schedule a free consultation today.

Legal Grounds for Disinheriting a Family Member

When considering whether to disinherit a family member, it's crucial to understand the legal grounds and implications of such a decision.

Testamentary Freedom

In the United States, individuals have the right to dispose of their property as they see fit, a principle known as testamentary freedom. This means that, in general, you are allowed to disinherit a family member if you so choose.

Spousal Rights

However, there are some limitations to testamentary freedom, particularly when it comes to disinheriting a spouse. A spouse has certain rights to a share of your estate, regardless of your intent to disinherit them. These rights, called elective shares, prevent complete disinheritance of a spouse.

Disinheriting Minor Children

Disinheriting minor children is also subject to limitations. While you can generally disinherit adult children, minor children have a right to financial support, and it may not be possible to disinherit them entirely.

Reasons to Disinherit a Family Member

There are various reasons one might choose to disinherit a family member. Some common motivations include:

  • A history of substance abuse or addiction
  • Irresponsible financial behavior
  • A desire to support other beneficiaries more
  • A lack of a close relationship with the family member

How to Disinherit a Family Member in Your Estate Plan

If you decide to disinherit a family member, it's essential to take specific steps to ensure that your wishes are legally enforceable.

Clear Language in Your Will or Trust

To disinherit a family member, your will or trust should include explicit language stating your intention. This helps to prevent disputes and challenges to your estate plan after your death.

No-Contest Clause

Including a no-contest clause in your estate plan can be an effective deterrent against potential challenges from disinherited family members. A no-contest clause states that if a beneficiary contests the estate plan, they risk losing their inheritance.

Update Beneficiary Designations

Certain assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts, pass directly to the named beneficiaries, bypassing the probate process. To disinherit a family member, ensure that you update your beneficiary designations to reflect your wishes.

Potential Challenges to Disinheritance

Even with a carefully prepared estate plan, disinherited family members might still challenge the disinheritance.

Claims of Undue Influence

A disinherited family member might claim that you were under undue influence when creating your estate plan, arguing that someone coerced or manipulated you into disinheriting them.

Claims of Lack of Testamentary Capacity

Another possible challenge is based on the argument that you lacked the mental capacity to make informed decisions about your estate plan when you chose to disinherit a family member.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

If you're considering disinheriting a family member in your estate plan, it's crucial to consult an experienced attorney to ensure that your wishes are legally enforceable. At Heritage Law Office, our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys are here to help you navigate this complex process. To discuss your options, contact us either online or by calling 414-253-8500 today.

Contact Us Today

For a comprehensive plan that will meet your needs or the needs of a loved one, contact us today. Located in Downtown Milwaukee, we proudly provide legal advice to those in Milwaukee County and surrounding communities.

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757 N. Broadway, Suite 300
Milwaukee, WI 53202
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Minneapolis, MN 55104
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