Disinheriting in your Last Will: Why and How

Photo by Adam Nir via Unsplash

We’ve all heard stories about people who disinherited their children or siblings. It’s a controversial topic that sparks many debates and can be difficult for some people to understand. In this post, we’ll discuss the reasons why someone might want to disinherit someone else. We’ll also focus on how you can do it in your estate plan. So let’s see how disinheriting someone in your last will actually works.

What is disinheriting?

In simple words it disinheriting refers to excluding someone from being  beneficiary of your property. Disinheriting someone might sound like an attractive option. Especially if you’re the type of person who likes to keep things simple and straightforward. But before you start making plans to disinherit your son or daughter, it’s important to know a couple of things. Firstly, disinheritance isn’t just as simple as writing anyone out of the will. Tt’s a legal process that requires careful consideration and deliberation.

To begin with: disinheritance is not simply about excluding people from one’s estate plan. It can also mean cutting them off entirely from any inheritance they were expecting to receive from other sources. And this can have serious consequences for both parties. Disinheriting someone means more than just saying “I don’t want them in my life anymore”. It means taking away their rights as heirs under state law. It’s more severe and serious so you need to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Reasons for disinheriting

If you wish to disinherit someone, there are many reasons why. You may feel that you have failed them in some way or that it is a personal choice. You may not necessarily dislike the people you disinherit. Instead, you may have decided this is the best route for your family and yourself.

There are several other things to consider when disinheriting someone. Simple examples are the following:

  • Estrangement. You and a family member had a fall out many years ago and you want this to be reflected by your will.
  • Mental Health issues. Due to someone’s condition you my think that it’s more prudent or safer to disinherit them. Especially if you think the have self destructive tendencies or they will mismanage your legacy and property.
  • Medical conditions. You may want to disinherit someone with a critical or terminal condition. This way the same property doesn’t have to go through probate twice.

How to write someone out of your will

Disinheriting someone in your will is (often) a way of saying that you do not feel they deserve any inheritance. It’s a controversial decision, as disinheriting can have several emotional and social consequences for the that person.

You can disinherit someone by writing them out of the will entirely. This usually is also the the simplest method. Alternatively, you can leave them only a token amount of money or property. Common examples of that is making them beneficiaries of one dollar or one piece of furniture.

Sometimes people leave their entire estate to charity without making any provisions for their family members at all. This is called “signing over all,” and it’s sometimes done with good intentions: You may want your heirs to understand how important donating to charities is.

Let’s now see examples of disinheriting different relatives works.

Disinheriting a spouse

If you are divorced, you can easily disinherit your ex-spouse. In most cases they wouldn’t get anything regardless but it’s easy to add their name as an excluded person.

Or maybe you’re still married and have a prenuptial agreement with your spouse. Such an agreement makes things much clearer in most cases. Certain states, for instance, recognize as any of your real estate property as joined property with your spouse. These states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. If you have no prenuptial agreement, even disinheriting your spouse isn’t going to change that. They will still own 50% for the real estate you bought after your wedding.

Disinheriting a child

Disinheriting a child is a serious decision that you should not take lightly. Before making any final decisions about disinheritance, it is important to consider all of the possible outcomes. Think also about these outcomes’ potential impacts on both your family and other beneficiaries of your estate plan.

Here it’s important to make a distinction. You cannot disinherit your minor children. As long as they’re not of age and there is an estate, they have a claim to it. This is so to ensure that children will get a proper care, education and have access to health care.

That’s not the case with your adult children, though. You can disinherit your child the second they turn 18. However, you need to be careful about how you do it. Not including the name of that child in your will is not always the same as disinheriting. A court, for example, may still think that you accidentally forgot to include the name. Then they could decide to provide them a share of your estate regardless. So if you’re sure you want to down this path, be explicit and specific.

Disinheriting your parents

If you don’t have a spouse or children, you may want to disinherit your parents. This is usually the case when they are no longer in your life and there is no need for them to inherit your estate. If you just want them to not inherit everything, just make sure that you name beneficiaries in your will. These could be close friends or charities.

Disinheriting other family members

Many of what we discussed above about parents, apply also here. Extended family doesn’t inherit properties by default. If they are the next of kin though that changes. In that case make sure you’re very specific about your wishes in your last will. Instead, if you want to appease them, leave them something small as we mentioned before. That would be smart if you have any distant relatives tat you really don’t trust. This way you make sure that your actual heirs’ assets are safe.

Change your mind?

Have you decided to write someone out of your will? Then it’s important to remember that you can change your mind at any time. You can always add them back in later if you want.

If this is the case, all you need to do is make a new will and leave them out of the original one. After all, only your most recent will is the one that’s valid and legally biding.

Can the disinherited contest my will?

Yes, the disinherited can contest your will. If the disinherited wins a will contest they will receive your property, or parts of it. It is possible that they may not receive all of the assets you intended for them to have. That is why clear and explicit wording is crucial when you’re drafting your last will. A good will is hard to contest after all!

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has helped answer some of your questions about disinheriting and how it affects your estate. If you’re struggling with whether or not to disinherit someone in your will, we suggest you reach out to someone. That could be a lawyer or even Myend – we’re here for you.

Myend offers the perfect estate and end-of-life planning for all. And our last will includes explicit instructions and clauses about disinheriting someone. This way you can choose the best solution for you! Have a look here to learn more. And if you’re ready for action, sign up today for your free account! The estate planning of the future is here today.

Navigating Terminal Illness

Download our Guide with 10 tips for those dealing with a terminal illness, or for loved ones supporting someone who is terminally ill.

Free End of Life planner

Sign up to receive our free checklist to help you get started with your End of Life Plan
Previous slide
Next slide

Organize, store, and share all the life-essential information in one place.


Myend is not a law firm, it does not engage in the practice of law, and it does not render any official legal advice. Therefore, you are hereby advised to seek your own legal counsel regarding any legal issues. Myend’s articles are meant to be taken as suggestions and therefore Myend carries no responsibility for the user’s actions.