The things you leave to your heirs in your will are your own assets, so you can leave them – or not – to anyone you wish. Consequently, you can disinherit one or more of your family members if you choose to do so.
Disinheriting a family member, however, can be a tricky proposition, especially if the family member you wish to disinherit is your spouse. In general, the only way you can legally disinherit your spouse is to have him or her sign a pre- or post-nuptial agreement in which he or she agrees to receive none of your assets at your death.
Failing to Mention a Family Member in Your Will
Simply failing to mention the family member(s) you wish to disinherit in your will is not a good option. Why? Because he, she or they can, and in all likelihood will, challenge the validity of your will in court, claiming that you made an inadvertent mistake in not mentioning them or leaving them something. Unfortunately for you, they stand a good chance of winning their challenge. Each state has its own set of people considered to be your “natural heirs.” These generally include the following:
- Children, both biological and adopted
Failing to mention one or more of these natural heirs in your will leaves your estate vulnerable to a nasty family fight wherein family members battle each other for the chance to inherit from you. Often these feuds result in a family split that lasts for generations into the future.
Your better course of action is to consult an experienced wills lawyer. He or she can explain the inheritance laws of your state and then draft a will for you that complies with them. Be sure to tell him or her not only who you wish to disinherit, but also why.
In all likelihood, he or she will recommend that you specify the specific family members by name that you intend to disinherit and the reasons why you’re taking this unusual and drastic action. Simply stating that you don’t like the person(s) probably isn’t sufficient to prevent a will challenge. You need good reasons for disinheriting your various family members. These reasons, of course, will be specific to you and your situation, but your will should clearly state them.
The way to compose your will can best be explained by a wills lawyer in Des Moines, IA from a firm like Law Group of Iowa. Your wills lawyer can be your biggest ally in this regard. He or she can draft a will that’s as airtight as possible and able to withstand any challenges that your disinherited family members choose to bring.