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Deciding Whether To Disinherit Someone
Let's say you have an adult child whose lifestyle or moral code you do not approve of. In fact, you are quite angry with this child because of the way he's chosen to manage his life. Maybe he's living with his lover, rather than marrying her, as your religion mandates. Maybe he's a drug abuser. Maybe he beats his wife. Maybe he just doesn't call on Mother's Day.

Should you disinherit this child? If you want to, you can. No law requires you to leave part of your estate to an adult child. The decision is yours. But, generally, disinheriting a child is a bad idea.
Example: Say you're a widower with a $300,000 estate and three adult children. Both your daughters work hard, lead responsible lives, and do the best they can, but your son Bobby is a cocaine addict.

Disinheriting Bobby virtually ensures a court battle over your legacy. Bobby may or may not win, but he will surely keep your estate in the hands of the courts--and out of the hands of your daughters--while the case drags on.

Second, the disinheritance will likely destroy any relationship between Bobby and his sisters. It will cause bitter fights among family members after your death. That is one legacy you surely don't want to leave.
Alternative option
Leaving Bobby some type of reasonable inheritance will likely forestall such court battles and help keep the family peace after your death. You can leave him considerably less than you leave your daughters, but enough so he'll think twice about squandering the amount he's been given on lawyers' fees.

Another option
Or, you may decide to leave your daughters $l00,000 each, free and clear, and put Bobby's share in a trust to be doled out piecemeal, say, $1,000 a month. You've made this decision because you don't want your death to finance your son's overdose. Or you may take an even stronger stance--leaving Bobby $100,000 with the stipulation that a percentage of it be used to pay for his stay in a drug-treatment center, the rest becoming his only after he has been clean for a year.

It's your deal
In the end, it's your plan. In the end, you have every right to give whatever you want to whomever you want. People may or may not understand your rationale, but you know that your decisions are made out of a sense of love and fairness. Be frank in communicating with your heirs, but don't feel you must shape your estate plan to accommodate your every loved one's every wish.

Smart Guide to Estate Planning, Laura Spinale
Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons

Determining The Value Of Your Estate
Choosing Estate Planning Professionals
How To Choose A Financial Planner
Low-Cost Legal Help For Estate Planning
Discussing Your Bequests With Your Heirs
Estate Planning: Providing For Your Pets
Storing Your Estate Planning Documents In A Safe Place

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If Mom never had a tag party while she was alive, and now you fear all-out sibling warfare over treasured family mementos, try drawing lots. Write down every item in question on small pieces of paper. Stick the pieces into a hat and draw. You may not end up getting exactly what you wanted, but you won't lose your relationship with your brother over Grandpa's tie clips, either.
Smart Guide to Estate Planning

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