There are many reasons why an individual may want to disinherit children or family members in their estate plan ranging from personal to pragmatic. While sometimes leaving an individual out of a will is simple, there are other cases where legal assistance is required. Below, we will uncover some of the most common situations where disinheritance occurs and special considerations that should be made during the process.
Can a Parent Leave a Child Out of a Will?
Some individuals want to know: can you disinherit a child in your Will? When compared to disinheriting a spouse, this is a far easier accomplishment, though it does not come without its limitations.
- Minor Children
In Arizona, state law protects minor children from disinheritance by ensuring them a minimum distribution upon their parent’s death.
- Adult Children
In Arizona, adult children have no legal protections from disinheritance. The easiest and most secure way to disinherit an adult child is simply by stating this intention in the body of your Will. Often, this is worded as:
“It is with great sadness that I exclude [Son/Daughter] and all of their descendants from receiving any of my assets.”
- Children in Blended Families
The most complicated of the three categories is how to manage children from other marriages. If not careful, some individuals accidentally write up an estate plan that results in their own children being left without an inheritance— often the exact opposite of what’s desired. When minor children are involved, the process becomes even more nuanced.
If you are making an estate plan and are in a blended family, never attempt this on your own. Instead, work with an estate planning law firm. Since each case is different, there is no real way to assess your specific needs without first looking at your family structure and then finding out how to distribute assets in the manner of your choosing.
Leaving a Spouse out of a Will
Disinheriting a spouse is possible in Arizona, but only to a point. This is because like minor children, there are certain legal protections in place that entitle your spouse to some degree of compensation upon your death.
When an individual wants to leave a child out of the Will, many believe that leaving a token amount of one dollar gets the job done nicely. However, if you retain legal advice on this strategy, any good lawyer will tell you to steer clear of this method.
By leaving a token amount, you open the door to that adult child saying that you meant $100,000,000 instead of $1. It is better to leave the child out completely.
Alternatives to Disinheritance
Sometimes individuals believe they must disinherit a child because of an outstanding addiction or tendency toward substance abuse. The parent, in trying to prevent their child from having unmonitored access to funds, sometimes chooses disinheritance as a way to avoid this outcome. However, better alternatives exist.
In cases where substance abuse is problematic, a trust is recommended. Through a trust, you can help take care of your child without handing money over directly to that child. For example, this might look like giving them a set disbursement once a month or authorizing payments only to a landlord, doctor or rehab.
Estate Planning Attorney in Arizona
Sue is an Arizona Estate Planning Attorney with over 30 years of experience. Spending the first 11 years of her practice representing families involved in the Department of Child Safety, she then transitioned into helping families with estate planning for the past 20 years.