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Long Beach CA Estate Planning Blog

Thursday, March 3, 2011

ILL WILL calls for a Will with Special Terms

Not surprisingly situations occur that drive a person to disinherit a child or heir.  My colleague in Wealth Counsel, Greg Turza , offered the following comments, and I am sharing them with you. 

Has one of your children run off and joined a religious cult where he was taught to reject his parents? Or become a compulsive gambler--or even worse -- a criminal?

Disinheriting a child who has become estranged from his family is often understandable. Knowing how to do it right is critical if you want to avoid court battles over your estate when you are gone.

Generally, children have no right to inherit under a will or trust. In Illinois you can exclude a child from your will or trust simply by omitting the disinherited child’s name. But this can lead to costly litigation.

Suppose after you die the disinherited child claims that the omission was inadvertent? Or a product of “undue influence” by the children who were included? Costly litigation will erode their inheritance.

To avoid this calamity the best policy is to specifically mention the disinherited child and state explicitly your decision. For example: “I acknowledge the existence of my son Michael Smith but have decided to make no provision for him as beneficiary.”

Remember, sometimes children are disinherited simply because they are wealthy or because the other children need more help. In such a case consider as an alternative: “It is not for lack of love and affection that I have decided to make no provision for Michael Smith in this instrument.”

Not surprisingly, to disinherit a child or heir requires attention to detail.  Knowing how to do it right is critical to preserve your estate from expensive court battles when you are gone.  If this is a topic we should discuss, call me or leave a comment here.

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