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Sacramento Estate Planning Attorney

Disinheriting a family member can be a delicate balancing act


Problems can arise when a child or other family member in California is excluded from the will of a deceased loved one. This situation is becoming more and more commonplace in recent years, as more and more people in the "baby boomer" generation inherit money from their dying loved ones. A study has shown that baby boomers could inherit an estimated $8.4 trillion. With so much money changing hands, it's no wonder that some people are feeling deeply slighted when their loved one forgets them or intentionally excludes them from their will.

People disinherit children for numerous reasons; some parents think their children are financially secure and don't need it, some parents are worried that the child will misspend the money on detrimental causes, and some do so because of emotional reasons.

Whether the reason for the decision is emotional or practical, the will needs to make it clear that the deceased wishes to disinherit the person. There doesn't need to be a reason explained in the words of the will, and, in fact, this can just cause more emotional turmoil for the disinherited. However, it does need to spell out in no uncertain terms that the person is not to inherit any property.

When people who would otherwise receive money in probate are left out of the will entirely, the court may look into whether this was merely an oversight or whether it was intentional. One way to illustrate that the disinheritance was deliberate is to file sequential wills, in which the person is excluded each time.

People should always seek the guidance of an experienced trust and estates attorney when drafting their will. This is particularly important in community property states like California, where inheritance and disinheritance can be even trickier.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek, "You Want to Cut Your Kid Out of Your Will. Or Do You?," Lewis Braham, July 23, 2013

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My Sacramento law practice, Michael A. Sawamura, Attorney at Law, focuses on wills, trusts and estate planning law in addition to business law and corporate defense services. My clients include professionals, government employees, small businesses, blue-collar workers and national corporations.

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