Expectations often run high when someone dies and it comes to reading that person’s will. Everyone from children to siblings to more distant relatives often expect to receive a distribuion from the decedent’s estate. However, the will does not always conform to these expectations. Some people, for reasons all their own, elect to exclude certain family members from the disposition of their estates. And these exclusions can sometimes lead to litigation. For this reason, it is important to understand the best ways to proactively disuade any disgruntled relative from attacking your will.
There are a few things you can do for those excluded family members.
Mention Excluded Persons by Name
One of the most common issues we find when a testator has excluded someone from a will is that person’s belief that the exclusion was accidental, or that the excluded person believes he is entitled to receive something from the estate. Many people, especially children, feel entitled. In actuality, the only person who cannot be disinherited under the law is a spouse.
This problem can usually be avoided by a direct reference to the exclusion of an individual in the will. Where the will clearly states the exclusion of a specific person was intentional, the likelihood of that person challenging the will is significantly reduced.
Adding a “No Contest” Clause
It is possible to further disuade any potential contest by including a statement in your will which provides that should a beneficiary challenge the will, any benefits provided in the will for that person will be automatically revoked. This will reduce potential litigation to situations in which the challenge relates only to the testator’s capacity or undue influence of another (usually a primary beneficiary).
Offer Smaller Forms of Recognition
Another option is to leave people for whom you are not providing a direct bequest some sort of token form of regocnition, such as a donation in their names or an item of tangible personal property such as jewelry or furniture. This is a viable alternative where you may wish to remember someone but do not want to leave them money or other types of property.
Consider Direct Messages
If you do decide to disinherit a family member for any reason, consider leaving a that person a personal message providing them with your reasoning. While you do not have to explain your decisions, it can sometimes help family members understand when you are no longer able to explain.
You are not obligated to leave anything to anyone. You have the right to choose how your assets are distributed and to whom. However, should you decide to disinherit someone, these suggestions may come in handy.