When the Circle is Broken: Tips for Cutting Someone Out of Your Will
Families are sometimes compared to a circle, a never ending connection of love and support. There’s even an old gospel hymn called “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Though the hymn refers to the family reuniting in heaven, sometimes it’s necessary to ‘break the circle’ here on earth by no longer associating with someone or by ending financial support. If cutting someone out of your Will becomes necessary, here are some tips for doing it right.
Reasons for leaving someone out of your will.
Discuss your reasons for disinheriting a loved one with your attorney. Why you are eliminating an heir could very well determine what action you will take. For example, if you are simply having a disagreement with one of your heirs, you may want to wait to see if you can resolve the dispute. If an heir has a problem with drugs, gambling, criminal behavior, or financial irresponsibility, you may have options other than disinheriting them. Occasionally, people will feel that one or more of their beneficiaries is doing well and doesn’t need an inheritance.
Is there anything that can’t be cut from your Will?
In community property states, including Arizona, you cannot completely disinherit your spouse. Arizona law grants the surviving spouse a certain amount from the estate.
Assets passed to heirs through a trust or joint tenancy may not be affected by changes to your Will, so ask your lawyer if the trust needs to be revised. Financial accounts, pension plans, and insurance policies with named beneficiaries also need to be addressed.
Alternatives to disinheritance.
An attorney with estate planning experience can suggest alternatives to disinheritance. Putting assets into a trust that provides some income to an irresponsible heir could help them without giving them so much money they get into trouble. In some extreme cases, a conservatorship over your heir might help. If your grandchildren are stable adults, but your children are not, you might consider skipping a generation.
It’s possible to place conditions on gifts. Maybe you only want to release funds to an heir if they graduate from college or if they marry someone you like. This can be tricky and could lead to a will contest. Your attorney can help you decide if this is a good option for you.
And a few final words.
When you disinherit an heir, you’ll still need to mention that person in your Will. If you just leave them out, that person can claim that they were left out by accident and end up being put back in for an equal share. You can say you are leaving the person out of the Will or that you have provided for them in other ways, but they should be named. Historically, it was required to leave a disinherited person $1. That is no longer required nor is it the best way to handle this in Arizona.
Of course, what you tell your attorney during discussions about disinheritance is confidential and will not be disclosed to your family members. You don’t have to tell anyone you’ve disowned an heir, but this may be shared with your other heirs after your death.
Disinheriting a loved one can be rough emotionally. You’ll need expert advice from someone with a sympathetic ear. At Keystone Law Firm, we understand the challenges families sometimes go through and are ready to make this easier for you. Call us at (480) 418-8448 or visit our website at keystonelawfirm.com to check out some of our free seminars.
Serving the greater Chandler area, including Ahwatukee, Gilbert, Sun Lakes, Mesa, and Tempe.