FAQ

Should I Disinherit a Child?

Most parents choose to leave their estates equally to their children. But sometimes, parents intentionally choose to not leave anything to a child. There may be what the parents consider to be a legitimate reason: one child has been more financially successful than the others; not wanting a special needs child to lose government benefits; or not wanting to leave an inheritance to an irresponsible or drug-dependent child. Sometimes a parent wants to disinherit a child who is estranged from the family, or to use disinheritance as a way to get even and have the last word.

Regardless of the reason, disinheriting a child is hurtful, permanent, and will affect that child’s relationship with his or her siblings. The courts are full of siblings who sue each other over inheritances but even if they don’t sue, it is highly unlikely they will be having family dinners together. Money aside, there is symbolic meaning to receiving something from a parent’s estate.

Disinheriting a child may be short-sighted and even completely unnecessary. For example:

*    A child who appears to be more successful financially may have trouble behind the scenes. The inheritance may be needed now or in the future: finances can change, marriages can collapse, and people can become ill. And unless specific provision is made for them, grandchildren from this child will also be disinherited.

*    A spouse, child, sibling, parent or other loved one who is physically, mentally or developmentally disabled—from birth, illness, injury or even substance abuse—may be entitled to government benefits now or in the future. Most of these benefits are available only to those with very minimal assets and income. But you do not have to disinherit this person. A special needs trust can be carefully designed to supplement and not jeopardize benefits provided by local, state, federal or private agencies.

*    A child who is irresponsible with money or is under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not be the ideal candidate to receive an inheritance of any size. But this child may need financial help now or in the future, and may even become a responsible adult. Instead of disinheriting the child, establish a trust and give the trustee discretion in providing or withholding financial assistance; you can stipulate any requirements you want the child to meet.

How we choose to include our children in our estate plans says a good deal about our values and faith. Not disinheriting a child who has caused grief and heartache can convey a message of love and forgiveness, while disinheriting a child, even for what seems to be good cause, can convey a lack of love, anger and resentment.

If you have previously disinherited a child and you have since reconciled, update your plan immediately. If your decision to disinherit a child is final, your attorney will know the best way to handle it. Consider telling your child that you are disinheriting him or her so it doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Explaining your reasons will allow for honest discussion, may help deter the child from blaming siblings later and may prevent a costly court battle.

Why do I need a will in Georgia?

  • With a will, you decide how your estate will be distributed and you may dispose of your property as you choose. Without a will, your estate is distributed to your heirs, who are determined in accordance with state law.
  • With a will, you can direct that all of your estate be distributed to your surviving spouse. Without a will, your estate will be shared by your surviving spouse and children, including minor children.
  • With a will, you can nominate the person whom you want to be guardian of your minor children. Without a will, the choice of guardian will be determined by a court.
  • With a will, property can be distributed to trustees of your choice to manage the property on behalf of incapacitated adults, minor children, children with special needs or beneficiaries who might need protection from creditors and their own unwise decisions. Without a will, property might be distributed to these beneficiaries outright or to a conservator chosen by a court, and minor children will receive their property upon reaching age 18.
  • With a will, you can direct that your property be available to your surviving spouse during his or her lifetime and pass to your children–perhaps children from a previous marriage–upon the surviving spouse’s death. Without a will, the property that is distributed to your surviving spouse will be distributed upon his or her death as your surviving spouse decides.
  • With a will, you choose the person, bank or trust company to serve as executor of your estate. The executor will manage and distribute your estate in accordance with the law and the terms of your will. Without a will, a court chooses an administrator of your estate at the request of your heirs, who may or may not agree on the choice.
  • With a will, your executor can be given full powers to sell your property and manage it without requesting permission of a court. Without a will, your heirs must petition a court for the administrator to be granted these powers.
  • With a will, you can provide that your executor serve without posting a surety bond and filing an inventory or periodic reports to a court. Without a will, your heirs must petition a court to relieve the administrator of these duties.
  • With a will, you can provide for gifts to charity out of your estate. Without a will, all of your property will be distributed to your heirs.
  • With a will, you can structure an estate plan to reduce federal estate taxes. Without a will, your estate may owe more in taxes than it would with a properly structured estate plan.

Source: State Bar of Georgia

Have more questions? Please call our experienced Marietta wills and probate attorneys for an in-depth strategy and planning session at 770-425-6060 or fill out an online contact form.

What is a Georgia no-fault divorce?

To obtain a divorce in Georgia on this basis (irretrievably broken), one party must establish that he or she refuses to live with the other spouse and that there is no hope of reconciliation. It is not necessary for both parties to agree the marriage is irretrievably broken. Also, it is not necessary to show that there was any fault or wrongdoing by either party.

SOURCE: State Bar of Georgia