Periodically, clients will reluctantly ask the question, “Can I disinherit my child?” This will open an emotional discussion that may be very necessary but also very traumatic. Clients will ask this question for several reasons. Some may think disinheriting a child is cruel and self-centered on the part of the person signing the document but most times their reasoning is sound. Before judging, consider the various reasons for this decision.
- The child has a severe physical or mental handicap that will require a nursing home or total care upon the parent’s death. The child’s share can be protected for future personal use.
- The child has an addiction or emotional problem. If the child was to receive the funds directly, the funds would certainly be dissipated within a short period of time.
- The child is a compulsive gambler or has extreme debt. Receiving a large inheritance at one time may result in the child’s self-destruction and again immediately lose whatever he stood to inherit.
- The child is in a very bad marriage and without proper planning; your assets will be the subject of a divorce order.
- There is a child out there that you know to be yours but is not part of the main family unit. If this child is your natural child he or she has all of the same rights as your acknowledged children.
- You have not seen or heard from your child for ten years and for whatever reason you will not hear from him. It is amazing how he will mysteriously appear shortly after your funeral.
- You simply have never related to each other and you have each gone different directions. The child would probably not want anything from you but there is always his spouse looking out for the grandchildren.
- You just do not like the child anymore. Some event has ruined the relationship and you don’t want him to participate in your estate. It would not be fair to the other children who have been by your side and offered support throughout your life. There is no law that requires you to be equal.
- Your child is independently secure and would prefer to see his siblings have his share rather than increase the size of his estate.
There are many real and legitimate reasons to disinherit a child. Your children all have a different relationship with you. It is important to treat them equitably not necessarily equally. If you have disinherited a child, the burden is on you to correct the document if circumstances change. If it was done purely out of emotion, time may cure the cause but the will or trust will be honored unless it is formally changed.
Jeff Roth is a partner with David Bacon and associate Jessica Moon of the firm ROTH and BACON with offices in Port Clinton, Upper Sandusky, Marion, Ohio and Fort Myers, Florida. All members of the firm are licensed in Ohio and Florida. Mr. Roth’s practice is limited to wealth strategy planning and elder law in both states. Nothing in this article is intended for, nor should be relied upon as individual legal advice. The purpose of this article is to provide information to the public on concepts of law as they pertain to estate and business planning. Jeff Roth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (telephone: 419-732-9994) copyright Jeffrey P. Roth 2015.