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Why you should articulate the reason for a disinheritance

Do you have a good reason to disinherit someone in your will? If you do, you know that the would-be-heir may decide to contest the will in court. Experts say that wills are actually contested far more frequently than most people suspect -- yet they also say that as many as 30 percent of people still attempt to disinherit someone.

Disinheriting someone is a deeply personal decision that only you can make. However, it may help keep your will from being invalidated if you are able to articulate the reason in writing.

If you are disinheriting a wealthier child who is already well-established in his or her career because you are worried, for example, that his or her special-needs younger sibling will need every dime of the inheritance you're leaving to get adequate lifetime care, put that explanation in the will.

Similarly, if you have been estranged for a long time toward a child because the two of you can't seem to overcome a significant personal issue, state the fact that you have been estranged in your will.

If you don't have children, you may decide to leave the majority of your wealth to just one of your extended relatives. For example, if you decide to leave everything to a favorite niece because she visited with you regularly, took you the grocery store, took you to get your hair done and generally involved herself in you life, that's within your rights.

However, it may be smart to spell out the fact that you hadn't actually seen any of your other nieces since they were teenagers and simply don't feel close to them.

This just makes good sense because it's keeping in mind potential legal challenges to your will: By clearly articulating your reasons for not including someone in an inheritance, you can help show the judge a number of things:

-- You were mentally competent enough to state a clear reason for your choices.

-- You have good reasons for feeling more connected to one relative than the others.

-- You made the decision to disinherit someone thoughtfully, not in a rash moment.

That could keep your disinherited relatives from claiming you were mentally sliding, acted in haste or were under some undue influence by the person who did inherit -- and ultimately keep your will out of probate litigation.

Source: FindLaw, "Reasons to Challenge a Will," accessed May 18, 2017

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