Tuesday 10 September 2013

Should You Disinherit Your Child? Facing This Serious Decision

Should You Disinherit Your Child? Facing This Serious Decision

When most people think of disinheriting a son or daughter, they usually imagine the drama of the movies. In real life, disinheriting seems cruel, and it's a difficult thing to consider. But more parents have reasons to disinherit a child than you might think.

An estate-planning lawyer who spoke to CNBC in 2013 admitted around 30 percent of her clients disinherit at least one family member. It could be because they have no relationship with you, because they suffer from substance abuse problems or have a criminal record, or simply because they're more independently wealthy than their siblings and willing to let you provide for the kids in the family that really need it.

Whatever inspires you to consider disinheriting your child, it's not a decision to be taken lightly.

Remember Things Change

Withholding money in your will is permanent, but the circumstances of your children's lives usually aren't. A well-off son or daughter could have a messy divorce, illness, or job loss that significantly impacts their financial future. A drug-addicted child could be successful in rehab and need some financial help to get on their feet.

That's why many parents consider a trust fund instead of outright disinheritance. With a trust fund, you can set up elaborate rules for when and how your child has access to their money. Disperse it a little at a time or create a contingency plan, where payments are based on whether a child goes to college or whether they complete rehab.

The only real problem with trust funds is that you have to designate a responsible trustee to act in your stead. Whoever you choose will bear the responsibility of managing your child's access to their inheritance, probably for years to come.

Keep it Legal

In every state except Louisiana, you are not under any obligation to leave your child anything if you specifically state in your will that you don't want to. If you're convinced you want to disinherit them completely, you need a clear will where you state outright that you are not leaving any provision for the child or their descendants.

It usually depends on the state whether you want to include the reasons for disinheritance in your will, but usually, you don't have to, and it may actually give them greater grounds to challenge your will later on. I you fail to mention them in the will, they can claim an "accidental disinheritance" and the court will presume you intended to give them money.

If you state a conditional reason, your child could argue the reason has been fulfilled. It takes some careful planning to ensure your will is completely valid.

Consider the Emotional Impact

Most children who have been disinherited are less concerned with the money they lost and more concerned with the emotional scars that come from being cut out of a parent's last will and testament. You should never approach disinheritance with a petty or spiteful mindset.

It shouldn't be a tool to force your children to work harder or make the lifestyle choices you wish they would make, and it should never be a threat. The inclusion of a son or daughter in your will is about much more than financial gain, it's about acknowledging them as a worthwhile part of your life after you are dead. 

Disinheritance can cause family and legal conflict, emotional turmoil, and bad blood long after you're not around anymore. With so many trust fund alternatives available, it should be your absolute last resort.

Many aging parents are forced to deal with children who are vindictive, criminal, or completely absent from their lives. Some reasons for considering disinheritance are completely valid while others need more consideration.

Your legacy to your children is about more than your estate, how you choose to handle it can make your children feel loved or provide lasting pain after your death. Real life is nothing like the movies, and you owe it to your family to exercise some caution before you go to dramatic lengths.

Deciding whether to disinherit a child is a deeply personal and emotionally charged decision that should not be taken lightly. While there may be valid reasons for considering such action, it's important to carefully weigh the potential consequences and consider alternative options, such as setting up a trust fund.

The financial implications of disinheriting a child are significant, but the emotional impact can be even greater. Disinheritance can lead to long-lasting family conflict and emotional scars that may outweigh any financial considerations.

Ultimately, the decision to disinherit a child should be approached with empathy, compassion, and careful consideration of the individual circumstances. It's essential to keep lines of communication open and seek professional guidance to ensure that your estate planning reflects your wishes while minimizing the potential for future discord among family members.

In navigating this complex and sensitive issue, prioritizing the well-being and harmony of your family should be paramount.

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