You can only disinherit someone who would’ve expected to be in your estate plan in the first place. You can add other people in – like a coworker or a family friend – but leaving them out isn’t disinheriting them. They never should have assumed they would get anything or be included in the first place.
But people who are being removed from your will after previously being added in – regardless of their relation to you – and some of your direct heirs will certainly expect to get assets in that estate plan. If you take them out, this is known as disinheriting them, and some people believe it is as simple as leaving them out of the estate plan entirely. But is this wise?
The odds of a dispute
The problem with just leaving someone out of the estate plan is that it may trigger a dispute. They may say that you were incapacitated at the time, perhaps because of an illness or injury. They may say that you were under the influence of medication or drugs. They may say that other heirs used undue influence to get you to change the estate plan when you didn’t want to. There are many different reasons why they could claim they should have still been included, and this can really make the process drag on for a long time.
Instead of just leaving them out of the will, it’s best to make it very clear that you do want to disinherit them. Some recommend doing this with a living will so that you can get it all in place a few years in advance. If you write this document in such a way that it specifically notes which heir is not supposed to get any of your assets, your intentions are clear and there are far fewer reasons why someone could cause a dispute. Additionally, creating a living will may give you a chance to talk to your heir about your decision and explain why you made it, which also lowers the odds of a dispute.
Estate planning can be complicated, so be sure you know exactly what steps to take.