Insight on Estate Planning

The AP&S Trusts & Estates Blog


Failure To Mention a Close Relative in Your Will

Typically, you arrange to leave most of your assets to various family members, including your spouse and children. These dispositions are spelled out in your will. But you don’t have to do what’s “expected” of you.

For example, you may have your reasons for “disinheriting” a family member. Perhaps you’re estranged from the person or feel that he or she already has sufficient wealth. After all, it’s your property to do with whatever you see fit. However, failing to even mention the relative in your will could lead to legal problems.

The exact nature of a potential dispute depends on the prevailing laws in your state. However, there are some general principles to observe. Specifically, a spouse or child may otherwise be entitled to a share of your assets, regardless of your intentions. Or a relative might claim that the omission is an unintended oversight or caused by undue influence from another party or a lack of competency.

This could result in a challenge to the will’s validity and throw the entire family into chaos. Also, your assets may be frozen, helping no one, until the legal issues can be untangled.

The prudent approach is to clearly state that you’re disinheriting the relative in your will and corroborate it in documents, such as a letter of instructions. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee that the disinherited family member won’t challenge the will’s validity, but it provides some legal support.

About The Author

A professional headshot of David Riedel in front of windows.

David T. Riedel

An author and frequent lecturer on estate planning, administration and taxes, David provides responsive, sympathetic and personable counsel to his varied… Read More

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