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Not every family has the makings of a charming holiday movie. In many homes, adult children become estranged from their parents for various reasons. This may include a simple parting of philosophies or a serious breach of trust. If your family is in this situation, you know that it can be difficult, and you may have tried numerous paths to reconciliation.

Nonetheless, if you are making your estate plan, the problem of dealing with your estranged child may weigh heavily on you. After much consideration, you may have decided that it is best to exclude your child from your estate plan. However, disinheriting a child is not as simple as omitting his or her name from the will. In fact, if you take this route, you may be leaving the rest of your family to deal with a complex legal battle.

Wills or trusts

If your decision to disinherit a family member includes leaving that person’s name from your will, the results may be a will challenge in probate court. Your child may claim you did not have the mental capacity for the will to be valid or that someone else pressured or influenced you into omitting the family member from your will.

On the other hand, using a trust to distribute your property makes it more difficult for someone to claim you made your decisions under influence or when you were not lucid. Trusts are documents that are generally established and used for years before a person dies, which makes it less likely that you did not have the capacity to intentionally disinherit someone. Typically, the only people who can challenge a trust are those named as its beneficiaries, so your disinherited child may have no claim.

Other ways to make your point

Aside from a will or trust, you have other options for disinheriting a child, for example:

  • Including a partial inheritance in your plan with a “no contest” clause, which cancels the inheritance of anyone who contests
  • Using IRAs, life insurance, annuities and other assets that are distributed privately directly to the named beneficiaries
  • Adding payable-on-death designations on your bank accounts so the contents of the accounts go directly to those you designate

You may have additional complications in your family, such as stepchildren or a second spouse whom your children do not like. Your Tennessee attorney can assess your situation and help you determine the most effective way to create an estate plan to limit the chances of a contest should you decide to disinherit someone.