A Last Resort: Alternatives to Disinheritance

Parents have many reasons for disinheriting a child. But disinheriting can lead to unintended consequences, including family tension or even a court battle. The decision to disinherit a child is entirely up to you, but before you do, there may be alternatives to consider.

One reason parents choose not to leave anything to a child is because the child is financially irresponsible. It’s certainly an understandable concern. Fortunately, there’s also a solution: a trust with a responsible trustee. A trust allows you to leave your child with a means of support and protect them from themselves.

Some parents leave nothing to a child because they’ve been told that an inheritance would mean the child no longer qualifies for particular government benefits. The problem with this approach is that those benefits may not be enough. Again, the solution is a trust. Done right, a trust will add to the child’s resources rather than replacing government benefits.

A more complicated issue is when one child doesn’t seem to need an inheritance. Disinheriting is permanent and the child’s situation might change. It can also make the child feel unloved or resentful. If you still think disinheritance is necessary, explain your reasons to your child. You should also consider leaving them items of personal, rather than financial, value. That way they still feel included in the family and can understand where you’re coming from.

Ultimately you can leave your estate—or not leave it—to anyone you wish. But before you make a permanent decision to disinherit a child, consider all your options. That way you can avoid unnecessary tension and truly meet your estate planning goals.

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