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Disinheriting a Loved One?  Three Important Questions to Ask First

When helping people create an estate plan, one of the many difficult conversations we have centers around disinheriting a loved one – whether a child, other family member or even a spouse.  We know this is a tough conversation.  We also know that the reasons to disinherit a loved one are as varied and unique as the individuals and families we see.

Here are three of the questions we think it’s important to ask before making this incredibly impactful decision.

Why?  What Do You Want to Accomplish – What’s Your Purpose?

Understanding the “why” and what you hope to accomplish by disinheriting someone is a first step. Are you no longer in contact?  Has there been a recent or past occurrence that caused a rift in your relationship?  Are they behaving in ways that you don’t want to support?  Are you concerned they will waste an inheritance and spend your hard-earned money carelessly, perhaps due to addiction or other issues, or simply because they’re terrible with money.  Maybe by disinheriting a loved one, you want to reward your family with whom you are connected, who have worked past potential disagreements or whose behavior reflects your values.  Perhaps you want to ensure that your hard-earned money is used wisely.

Can You Accomplish Your Purpose Some Other Way?

Being disconnected from a loved one, for whatever reason, can be painful.  Before taking the step of disinheriting someone, I always ask is reconnection possible or desired?  Can the rift be healed?  Are there any steps that could be taken today to work towards repairing the connection?  Often, the answer is no and everything possible has already been tried, but sometimes there is still the potential for repair.

For those family members who are spendthrifts, disinheritance may not be necessary to meet your goals.  Estate planners have many tools available to them to help control a beneficiary’s spending, including through a trust that limits distributions to the beneficiary.   The limits on distributions can be crafted in a manner that serves your unique values and desires and a trustee can be appointed who will honor those limits.

Who Will This Effect and How Will it Affect Them?

Disinheriting someone potentially has ripple effects.  Certainly the individual being disinherited is effected, but so are other family members.  How will their siblings or other family members feel?  What about grandchildren or great-grandchildren – how will they be affected? Do you want them to be affected? Will this decision have a long-term impact on family relationships?

An estate planning attorney can help you work through these difficult questions and prepare the best plan to meet your goals.

Contact The Estate Planner LLC in our St. Louis office at 314-303-3218 for assistance with estate planning.

** The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.  This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice.

Written on September 12, 2022 by Stephanie Copp Martinez, JD


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