Can you disinherit a child based on their lifestyle choices?

Disinheriting a child from a will means that a parent intentionally excludes the child from receiving an inheritance upon the parent’s death. Disinheriting a child is an extreme measure with a ripple effect of consequences.

If other siblings remain in the parent’s will, significant conflict can arise between siblings, reopen old sibling-rivalry wounds, and cause serious emotional distress to the child who has been cut off. All that being said, it certainly is possible to disinherit a child for any reason, including the child’s lifestyle choices. This is a parent’s prerogative. Keep reading for more from our Fairfax estate planning attorney.

can you disinherit a child

What is the process for disinheriting a child?

Each state recognizes “heirs at law.” These are people who may inherit from a deceased person’s estate whether that person has a will in place or not. In Virginia and North Carolina, children and the surviving spouse are the first heirs at law.

To disinherit a child, your will must specifically state that you do not want them to receive any assets from your estate. If you do not want their children to receive anything either, make that clear in the language of your will as well. Typically, it is not enough just to leave the child’s name out of your will.

You can also not cross a child’s name out of your will and expect they will be disinherited. You would have to add a codicil, a written document describing the change to your will, or draft a new will. A Fairfax wills and trust attorney can work with you to ensure your will clearly and legally establishes your wishes.

Can you cut a child out of your will no matter their age?

While you can cut an adult child out of your will, you cannot disinherit a minor child. If you pass away and your estate has assets, state laws will determine how those assets are to be used for the care of your minor children.

Can a parent cut a child out of a will due to disagreements over the child’s lifestyle?

You do not need approval or permission to disinherit an adult child. As long as the child is 18 or older, you have complete freedom to disinherit them.

Sometimes, parents choose to disinherit a child because they disagree with the child’s lifestyle. They may feel that leaving money to the child will express approval of that lifestyle or fund potentially dangerous choices. For example, if a child is addicted to drugs, alcohol, or gambling, the parent may feel they are contributing to the addiction if they leave the child an inheritance.

If you want to care for a child with addiction or mental illness, but do not want to leave them an inheritance they can use at their discretion, communicate your concerns to your Fairfax wills and trusts attorney. You can continue to provide for your child using trust provisions limiting their access to these assets.

Can a child contest disinheritance?

Children cannot contest a will simply because they believe they have been treated unfairly. They must have legal grounds for contesting, such as:

  • The parent was not of sound mind when they drafted the will.
  • A witness was not present when the parent signed the will.
  • They believe their parent was under duress or inappropriately influenced when making the will.
  • They believe they were disinherited because of false information. For example, if a person is disinherited for a drug addiction, but can prove they are not abusing substances, there may be an opportunity to contest.

Don’t put off planning your estate

Get your affairs in order and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your estate will go to those who will put it to good use. Call (855) 541-4867 or message Select Law Partners PLLC to speak with an experienced wills and trust attorney.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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