Estranged Child and Your Estate Plan
When ties have been cut between parents and a child, commonly referred to as estrangement, families may want to review their estate plan. Depending on the reason for the estrangement, there are several strategies for dealing with an estranged child in an estate plan. Below are the main approaches.
When you do not want to leave your child an inheritance because you are worried about how they will use the money, you can leave the child’s inheritance in a trust. You can provide instructions to the trustee on when and how the trustee should disburse the funds in the trust. For example, you can instruct the trustee to disburse the money in small increments or only if the child meets certain conditions.
Inheritance with No-Contest Clause
When you want to leave your child an inheritence that is smaller than the inheritence you leave to other beneficiaries, you may want to include a no-contest clause in your will. Also known as an “in terrorem clause”, a no-contest clause may prevent your child from contesting the will. This clause can declaire that if your child challenges the will, and then loses the challenge, then they will get nothing. If you leave your child enough inheritence, a challenge may not be worth the risk of losing the inheritance.
When you do not want a child to receive anything from you, you may have the option to disinheritant your child. It is important to check with an attorney because there are laws in place to protect children. If you are leaving a child nothing, you should specifically mention the child in the will and state that you are disinheriting them; failing to do so could make it easier for them to challenge the will. You also need to specify whether you are disinheriting that child’s children, too.
Disinheriting a child comes with a risk. They may contest the will in court, which can cost your estate time and money. There are steps you can take to try preventing a will contest. This includes making sure your will is properly executed, writing a letter to the estranged child to explain your reasoning, and removing any appearance of undue influence. Keep in mind, however, that nothing is foolproof.
Figuring out how to treat an estranged child in your estate plan is complicated and emotional. At Baker Law Group, our estate planning attorneys can help. We offer a complimentary initial consultation to determine how we can best assist you. To schedule a consultation:
781-996-5656 phone or