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Estate Planning for Parents
Stephen A. Pinnacoli
Stephen A. Pinnacoli

What Is the Best Method of Disinheriting Someone?

April 12, 2024
There are many different reasons you may want or need to disinherit someone from your estate plan. There are far fewer correct ways to actually do so.

There is a myth about being able to exclude someone from receiving an inheritance by leaving the person a single dollar as a token inheritance amount. The myth is as pervasive as it is incorrect, according to an article, “The art and science to disinheriting someone,” from Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press.

This myth often shows up when people try to create their own wills. The theory is that by leaving a single dollar, the heir cannot make a case to a judge that their parents forgot to include them in the will, and doing so was an unintended oversight, one the judge can fix.

While this method doesn’t work, a well-written will can avoid the possibility of presenting an argument about an heir being forgotten. The person to be disinherited needs to be identified clearly, as well as the relationship of the person to the person making the will, and specific language goes into the will explaining the person is in no way, shape, or form to receive any inheritance from the estate.

The practice of leaving a token one-dollar inheritance to someone you want to exclude from the estate actually creates more problems than it solves. By leaving a token gift, you’ve made the person a beneficiary of the will or trust estate, thereby giving them rights they would not otherwise have had.

The token one dollar now means the person is within their legal rights to require notice of proceedings and accountings of finances of the probate or trust estate and has other rights unique to estate beneficiaries.

In short, the person you presented with a one-dollar inheritance can create a lot of trouble for the personal representative.

Another strategy when a person wishes to make an heir less likely to challenge the distribution of property is to use a no-contest provision in the will. The no-contest provision needs to align with the laws of the state. However, the overall concept is that anyone challenging the will shall not receive an inheritance and may have to pay legal fees for contesting the will.

A version of this is to give the person a certain amount of inheritance, enough that they wouldn’t want to lose it and use a no-contest provision. They have a choice—accept the inheritance they were offered or challenge it and risk losing everything. Unfortunately, "no-contest" provisions are invalid in Florida, per Statute Section 732.517.

Experienced estate planning attorneys have seen many different situations where someone wished to leave a family member out of the will. Have a candid discussion with your estate planning attorney about your situation, including the history of the person you wish to leave out of your will, and they’ll find a solution to resolve the issue.

Reference: Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press (Jan. 14. 2024) “The art and science to disinheriting someone”

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