Berman & Asbel, LLP

Before Disinheriting Someone, Ask Yourself Some Questions

Recently, the topic of disinheritance made headlines when comedian Jerry Lewis disinherited his six biological children in his will. While his estranged children may not have been surprised by the news, it certainly had an impact on his readers and fans.

Deciding to disinherit someone is a weighty decision, particularly if there are substantial assets involved, and can result in the disinherited person having bad feelings about you, suffering financial set backs, experiencing a change in lifestyle, feeling embarrassed, and having feelings of resentment for family members who inherited. We all want to be remembered kindly. If you are considering leaving a family member, partner or close friend out of your will, first ask yourself the following three questions:

• Is there any chance of reconciliation? If your decision to disinherit someone stems from a difficult relationship or a particularly upsetting argument, taking that person out of your will may appear logical at the moment. But keep in mind, relationships are fluid and often change. Strained or broken relationships can often be repaired. If there is a CHANCE of reconciliation, you may want to reconsider disinheritance.

• What are your reasons for leaving someone out of your will? As stated above, it could be because of a difficult relationship or argument. However, it could also be in an effort to create equality between your children. If this is true in your case, consider an explanation of your thinking in your estate plan. This can prevent hurt feelings and possible contesting of your will.

• Are there alternative options that can accomplish the same goal? One possible option is to leave the money you would have left to your child to your grandchild or grandchildren, if there are any.

By disinheriting a family member, partner, friend, or other individual, you are sending that person a very strong message. Is it the message you mean to send? The three questions above are to help you decide.

Whatever you choose to do, an estate plan can be a valuable tool in transmitting your thoughts to your loved ones. Discuss difficult decisions, potential disputes and other estate issues with an estate attorney.

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