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What to Consider Before Disinheriting a Child

People sometimes move quickly to disinherit a child. Estrangement, arguments, disability, and addiction are typical reasons for making this choice. Before this is decision becomes definitive, however, it may be prudent to review the following considerations:

First, it is important to consider whether or not these decisions will cause or worsen a riff between this child and their siblings. Disinheritance might deepen sentiments of estrangement, or inspire feelings of superiority or jealously. It can lead to arguments, and even lawsuits if the disinherited child believes the decision to be unfair. These are real potential consequences that may be avoided if the distribution of a trust is adjusted, even just a little.

Second, you should consider this to be the last message you send to this child. Deciding to include an estranged child, for example, may be a last opportunity to reach out to them, or a gift that expresses affection. Disinheritance, on the other hand, is a quite contrasting message, one you may wish to withhold.

Third, although a child may appear to be well off economically, or at least more so than the rest of the child’s siblings, one should take caution before making this the reason to disinherit. A child that appears well off may have underlying problems they do not share openly, or in the future might lose some or all of the financial security they had while you were alive. These possible developments are important to keep in mind.

Fourth, many people disinherit children out of fear that an inheritance might disqualify a child with disability from receiving government benefits. This, however, can be resolved with a Special Needs Trust. Passing on an inheritance to a child with a disability through this type of trust will allow the child to access the inheritance without disqualifying the child from current or future government benefits they may be receiving.

Fifth, for a child suffering from an addiction, a living trust can be used to provide specific instructions regarding the distribution of the child’s share. Your chosen successor trustee, as a third party, would distribute this child’s share according to your legally binding instructions. This can allow the addicted child to receive their share in small portions over a period of time, have a third party manage their inheritance for them, or can provide that the distribution be made contingent on the child’s participation in rehabilitation of some sort. There are many possibilities that should be considered before the decision to disinherit becomes definitive.


Contact the offices of Celaya Law today to start the discussion with our trusted team about your options.


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