Let’s say that one of your children hasn’t had any contact with you in years. They’ve been totally off the radar and never call anymore. It is normal and somewhat common to begin having second thoughts about giving them an inheritance. Nj.com’s recent article entitled “We want to cut one child out of our will. Can we?” says that adult children are not legally entitled to your money or an inheritance.
However, crossing a child off of your inheritance may lead to a will contest. A will contest generally happens when a child who was left less—or disinherited altogether—thinks that a sibling has wrongly influenced a parent to leave more to the other. This is particularly problematic if the parent is elderly and/or in poor health and completely reliant on that child for assistance.
A will contest is a probate proceeding where the interested parties dispute the validity of a will. The most common legal grounds for disputing the validity of a will are undue influence, duress, mistakes, and the decedent’s lack of capacity when they signed the will. Typically, there’s a time limit to contesting a will. For example, in Florida, a person who receives a Notice of Administration has just 90 days from the date they received the notice to contest the will.
To properly avoid a will contest, you should work with a qualified estate planning attorney who will document the file and prepare a will for you with the appropriate language. Note that it isn’t necessary or advisable to provide an explanation as to why you’re disinheriting a child. That’s because if you give a reason, that reason may actually cause controversy.
If avoiding litigation is a priority, as an alternative to totally disinheriting a child, your attorney can also talk with you about the different forms of “no-contest” clauses that can be placed in a will. This clause, also called an `in terrorem’ clause, indicates that if a beneficiary raises a claim with respect to the will, they will lose their inheritance. Beware: Florida courts will not uphold this clause.
Your adult children are not entitled to inherit your estate or receive your money. However, if your estate plan consists of ONLY a will, then it’s much easier for a disinherited child to file a will contest. Thus, to protect your hard-earned assets and distribute your money precisely as you wish, please book a consultation with our office at your earliest convenience.
Reference: nj.com (Dec. 2, 2022) “We want to cut one child out of our will. Can we?”