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Can you disinherit family members in your estate plan?

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2022 | Estate Planning

The legacy that you leave behind when you die can be a way to show people how much you care for them. It could also be a way for you to let them know how badly they hurt or disappointed you.

It is quite common for close family members to feel a sense of entitlement about someone’s property. Children, grandchildren and other loved ones may anticipate receiving a large inheritance from your estate, regardless of their current behavior or relationship with you.

Can you potentially change your escape plan to disinherit family members because of changes in your relationship with them or your personal values?

You can disinherit most beneficiaries

Your estate plan is ultimately a reflection of your relationships and values, so your wishes are what determine who receives what property of your estate. Although you may have once provided instructions for your executor to split everything evenly among your children, your wishes may since have changed as you have become estranged from one of your children.

To disinherit a child or other family member, you typically want to specifically mention the decision to omit them in your estate documents. Otherwise, they could try to convince the courts that their omission from the will was a mistake or oversight. Talking explicitly about leaving someone out or leaving them just a couple of dollars can be a way to ensure they cannot challenge your wishes later in court.

The same approach will not work if you hope to disinherit a spouse. California’s community property laws mean that your spouse has the right to certain assets acquired and shared during your marriage regardless of what you include in your estate plan. If you attempt to fully disinherit your spouse, your estate could wind up dragged through probate so that they can claim some of your community property.

Ensure late in life changes will hold up in court

In addition to claiming that you left them out by mistake, family members could try to claim that you made changes later in life due to the undue influence of a caregiver or a decline in your cognitive faculties.

Keeping clear records about your estate plan and your health and having witnesses attest to your mental acuity at the time that you adjust your documents can limit the possibility of challenges against your estate plan that disinherits someone later. Learning more about California probate laws will help you create the most effective and meaningful estate plan possible for your situation.