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Is there a right way to disinherit someone?

Family relationships are complicated, and these complications can become especially evident in the wake of someone’s death. Under such difficult circumstances, the process of distributing his or her assets can bring to light some painful realisations.

One such realization is that the decedent has disinherited someone in the family. Whether this comes as a total surprise or doesn’t make sense, the act of disinheriting someone can be uniquely polarizing. If you are thinking about leaving someone out of your will, you should know how you might proceed to save your loved ones some pain.

Don’t do it

Under British Columbia law, parents have an obligation to provide adequate and just provisions for their children and family. If you do not do this by excluding a child from your will, he or she could dispute the claim. Therefore, in many cases, disinheriting a child will lead to legal scrutiny and intervention.

The same reasoning applies to a person’s spouse.

With all this in mind, it may not be wise to disinherit a spouse or child. That said, sometimes there are legitimate grounds for leaving someone out.

Having – and explaining – a reason

In cases where a spouse or child was estranged or abusive, for example, disinheritance may be justified.

Under these circumstances, explaining the reasoning behind disinheritance in the will can minimize the legal and emotional fallout. A child who is left out could say that it a mistake or oversight. They may also argue that disinheritance is the result of undue influence.

If you do decide to disinherit someone, consider stating clearly that you are doing so and explain your reasons to avoid confusion.

Finding other ways to acknowledge

Perhaps the easiest way to distribute assets after a person’s death is to divide them equally among family members. However, in some cases, equal division is not necessarily fair.

For instance, if one of your children is wealthier than your other children, you don’t have to leave them out of your will. You can provide for them in other ways to keep distribution equitable and just. An example might be to leave highly sentimental property to the child instead of money.

Disinheriting someone is emotionally, legally and personally complicated. As such, it is a decision people should not make lightly or without legal guidance.  

 

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