The choice to disinherit a child is never an easy one. Disinheriting or failing to provide for a child in your Will, sends a clear signal about your feelings towards that child.
Perhaps they cannot hold a steady job, are addicted to drugs and alcohol or are prone to criminal acts or violence; perhaps they are of financial means great enough that they do not need an inheritance as much as your other children.
Whatever the reason, you risk creating a strong rift in the family if all of your other children have been included in your Will. In addition, the disinherited child could challenge the Will and possibly win back the inheritance you withheld.
Before you decide to completely disinherit your child, you may wish to consider other ways of providing a small or closely regulated sum of money to keep peace in your family.
Form an Incentive Trust
An incentive trust gives your child a monetary reward for behavior displayed according to the standards contained in the trust. In this manner, you could match your child’s salary dollar for dollar if they have trouble keeping a steady job. You can also set out requirements for attending support group meetings if your child is addicted to drugs or alcohol, and even ask for random drug tests.
If your child’s behavior exemplifies clean living, he will be rewarded with a dollar figure that you determine. In this manner, your child may have a greater chance at retaining good habits and possibly learn some valuable life lessons. The trust also prevents your child from squandering his inheritance all at once.
Gifting your child a set amount of money before you die and explaining that it is in lieu of an inheritance from the estate, can reduce or prevent later ill-will toward you and your named heirs. Of course, there is a risk that your child will spend the gift recklessly. Communicating to your child as to why you have chosen this means of inheritance, as opposed to being named in the Will, can promote good will towards you and your heirs. Also, at a later time you may wish to change your Will and provide for them, minus the amount of the outright gift.
Keep in mind that by disinheriting your child, their children may also feel resentment towards their aunts and uncles. The disinheritance can cause them to feel as though they are loved less than your other grandchildren. This can be mitigated by discussing your reasons with them or providing for them in a trust account with a trustee to administer the assets and payouts of the trust.
The most important aspect of disinheriting a child is setting out the reasons for the disinheritance in your Will, to assure all parties that you purposely intended not to provide for your child in the Will. Videotaping your wishes, or the signing of your Will might also help the parties understand your clear intentions to disinherit your child.