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Is disinheriting a child the right decision?

People don’t like to talk about wills. For some it’s a fear of mortality, for others it’s a preference to keep finances and family separate. Whatever the reason, the failure to talk about a will makes it harder for those who will (or will not) inherit property to understand and accept it when the time comes.

One common dramatic plot twist in popular culture is when a parent disinherits a child, meaning the parent leaves nothing to their child. Under standard probate law, possessions go to the spouse or close family. With a will or estate plan, a parent can tailor their wishes based on different rationale.

Why do parents disinherit their children?

No two people think alike, making it hard to give a universal answer to this question. There are many reasons, including:

  • Disapproval of a child’s lifestyle or life choices
  • To protect the family’s assets from creditors
  • To give advantage to another child with greater needs
  • To emphasize a work ethic or parental value

As the reasons above show, some reasons may be a negative response to a situation, while others are an attempt at fairness within the family or to instill certain values. Multi-millionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are notably not leaving their entire estates to their children: not out of anger, but as a life lesson.

With any estate plan, the best solution to reducing confusion and hurt feelings is to discuss your goals with your family, friends and chosen executor. While communication reduces the likelihood of a dispute after your passing, it is not guaranteed. If your decision includes disinheritance, the odds of a challenge increase. You must find the right balance between personal emotion and core values while considering how your family will respond to your decision.

An unclear message wreaks havoc

Ultimately the goal of an estate plan is to establish stability. It’s important that you discuss your inheritance plans fully with a trusted attorney to make sure that you are documenting your plan in the way that best suits your wishes for your family after you have passed away. If there is confusion, it is likely to lead to family discord and a legal battle that tarnishes your memory and costs unnecessary expenses.

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