It is common practice for parents to distribute their estates equally to each of their children. However, there are occasions in which a parent will specifically choose to leave a child or children completely out of the inheritance. The reasons may be logical and legitimate. Other times the reasons may be unwise, especially if a parent simply wants to get even with a specific child.
Whatever the reasons, the results of disinheriting can cause permanent consequences. A decision of this nature should be carefully thought out and made based upon sound advice. Whether the siblings involved are simply estranged for the long term or whether they spend years in court fighting over the inheritance, a parent will want to carefully consider the legacy they are leaving behind for their family.
The decision to disinherit a child is often premature. Consider these scenarios:
- Perhaps a child has been left out of the will simply because they have achieved a much higher level of financial success than their siblings. The parent may assume this child just doesn’t need the money. However, financial fortunes can change literally overnight. That child may need the inheritance as much as their siblings after you are gone. Also, the grandchildren from that child are disinherited with them unless you make specific provisions.
- A beneficiary who is disabled in any way may be eligible for government assistance only if they meet low income requirements. However, they do not have to be left out of the will. A supplemental needs trust can be established to complement the government benefits that they receive.
- A child may be disinherited because of their irresponsible lifestyle or poor money management. A reasonable alternative would be to establish a trust fund and allow the trustee the discretion to disburse or withhold assets that they feel will be in the best interests of the child. You can even provide requirements to be met in order to receive financial assistance from the fund.
Inheritance is about more than just the money. It is also about last statements of love, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Rather than leave behind permanent hurt, it is possible to convey your legacy to your children in a responsible way.