How to Neutralize Challenges to Your Will

There are a range of situations that could prompt a parent to disinherit a child. For example, some children completely ignore their parents. An extreme example is when an adult child tries to commit his parent to a mental institution. A more common example are situations where an adult child physically or financially abuses a parent. But what if you don’t have children? Some nieces and nephews of the will maker are just as awful as some of the wayward children described above. How do you disinherit any close family members and ensure that a will contest will be resolved as you wished?

  1.   Hire legal counsel to draft your will or trust document. If you want to make sure that a family member will be disinherited as you wish in your will, especially if the disinherited person is your child, hire an attorney to draft your will or trust document. Do not rely on a handwritten or internet will. If they were difficult to manage while you were alive, they will be doubly difficult to control once you are dead. An errant child or nephew may try to challenge your will, even if they lose, to force the other children or family members to pay them off. Hate has a funny way of applying both ways.
  2.   Provide details and instructions as to why you are disinheriting your child or family member to your executor. An executor of a will is responsible for submitting the will to probate and will be required to represent your wishes and defend you in court if your will is challenged. Leaving a written explanation as to why you were disinheriting your child or other family member will both explain and corroborate your decision. Demonstrating that your decision to disinherit a family member was a thoughtful process and not simply a rash act will ensure that your actual wishes are followed if challenged. Especially if the family member you are seeking to disinherit is combative with your other children or family members. Remove all doubt that another child or family member pressured you to disinherit the other family member.
  3.   Do not state a reason in the will for the disinheritance. While tempting, keep the will clean of the reason you are disinheriting the family member. A simple, “I do not provide for Jane Doe in my will” is sufficient. Contrast this statement with the following, “I do not provide for Jane Doe in my will because she in the last 10 years she has not visited me.” If Jane visited once in the ten (10) year period, Jane may be able to show that you were provided with false information about her by another party that actually did receive under your will.  

Letting your child know they are being disinherited is a double-edged sword. Nobody ever gets over being disinherited by a parent. The child may come around and become a part of your life prompting you to include them in your will; or may become more combative and pressure you to include them in the will. Consider your situation, perhaps a modest gift may be appropriate or a trust document to take care of necessities for example, may be a method to combat a will contest. No plan is fool-proof when the outcome for your disinherited family member is nothing. 

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