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Does disinheriting a child always start with a disagreement?

On Behalf of | Aug 8, 2018 | Firm News

Maybe you have heard plenty of stories about people who got disinherited by their parents, and you see a common theme: It always begins some sort of disagreement.

A child married someone the parents didn’t approve of. The parents told the child to take a specific career path and they refused. The child got into trouble with the law or fell into drug addiction or abandoned the family faith.

In cases like these, the relationship grows thin. Parents and children may become estranged for years or even decades. Eventually, the parents cut the children out of the will as one final act that really shows reconciliation is impossible.

But is that always how it happens? Or are there other reasons to disinherit a child?

Wealth and needs

One potential reason is simply because of that child’s wealth and needs. Perhaps you have multiple children, you do not have unlimited resources, and it is clear that one of your children does not need nearly as much financial assistance as the others.

For example, one woman said that she “never thought of it as disinheriting her” when she took her daughter out of her will. That daughter was 44 years old, had a college degree, had a successful career and married into a wealthy family.

Instead, the woman said that she was just taking care of the children who had not done as well financially over the years. They needed the money. Her daughter, realistically, did not.

Can this still cause disputes?

One thing to remember about doing this is that it can absolutely still cause disputes and strife among the children. You may think it is fair. You may think that it makes sense. But, even if you are right, are your children going to disagree?

For instance, perhaps you have one successful child and one child who wound up in jail for a few years and cannot get a job. Your first child avoided legal trouble, graduated and started a business.

You may feel tempted to leave your wealth to the child with nothing, not even career prospects. However, your other child may feel like you are punishing them for their success. From that child’s perspective, all of that hard work led to less reward than a life of minor crime and unemployment.

Having the conversation

If you want to do something like this, the best thing you can do is to have a conversation with your kids in advance. Talk to them. Explain your thinking. Ask for their opinions. This way, they understand where you are coming from and they can settle any potential disputes in advance.

As you work your way through this process, make sure you know all of the legal steps to take.