Will

Can I Disinherit a Family Member?

This is never a decision to be made lightly, but we do live in a world where families aren’t always as perfect as their holiday cards. Some blended families never really blend, opioid addictions create huge challenges for families and some individuals are family in name only. In that case, says Next Avenue in the article “How to Disinherit a Family Member,” you may choose to disinherit someone.

The first step is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney, who practices in your state. This is a complicated process, and if you don’t do it right, it’s entirely possible the person you want to disinherit can appeal your action in court after you’ve died—and win.

A living trust may work better than passing all your assets through a will, when you want to disinherit someone. A will is easier to challenge. He or she may say you were being influenced by someone else when you had your will written, and, therefore, the disinheritance does not reflect your real wishes.  They could also claim that you signed the will without understanding what you were signing, and that you were not mentally competent and could not make legal decisions at that time. This is a charge of fraud.

After you die, your will becomes a public document, and anyone can find out who you decided to disinherit. They may be angry or embarrassed and feel the need to set the record straight, challenging your will to prove their worth.

A living trust, when prepared correctly, remains a totally private document. In some states—check with your estate planning attorney—it can only be challenged by the beneficiaries of the trust.

There can always be charges of fraud, as a result of your being mentally incompetent to sign the trust. However, most people who create living trusts do so several years before their death. Wills are often written or revised shortly before death. Therefore, the person who created the trust has likely opened accounts in the name of the trust, used the accounts, paid bills, etc. That activity makes it hard to prove incompetence.

What if you want to leave someone only a partial inheritance? Your best bet is to ensure that your estate includes a strong “No Contest” provision, technically termed “In Terrorem.” It’s a little harsh, but the general idea is that whoever challenges the will, gets nothing. Courts don’t always like it, but heirs may think twice about challenging your will.

Remember that many of your assets are in accounts with beneficiary designations: IRAs, SEPs, investment accounts, life insurance policies, etc. Review the names on your accounts to make sure the person you want to disinherit does not appear on those accounts. You can also use Payable on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) on accounts to keep that “disinherited” person from knowing about assets moved to other heirs outside of your will.

Blended families face unique challenges. Friction between stepparents and stepchildren can explode, when one parent dies and the second spouse is left without the other parent as a buffer. Tensions that were kept under the surface, may bubble up quickly. Make sure that all the children know what your plans are for your estate, to avoid breaking up the blended family.

Disinheriting someone, for whatever reason, can create hard feelings that remain for generations. If you feel you have no choice, speak with your estate planning attorney to be sure it’s done correctly and lessen the chances of any challenges.

Reference: Next Avenue (Dec. 11, 2018) “How to Disinherit a Family Member”

Aging Parents and the Important Conversations to Have Now, Not Later

The roles are reversed when parents age. You can’t count on them to take the lead in having discussions about money, health, aging and other concerns that come in the later years.

When you were a kid, your parents were in charge. Now your parents are older, and you must be the adult in the room. Embracing that role, with thoughtfulness, will make it easier for you and your parents as you address the issues that come with aging. As recommended in the article “How to Have Difficult Conversations With Your Aging Parents” from Next Avenue, having these conversations will help you all avoid some of the uncertainty and stress in the future.

MP900430865 (1)Here are the conversations you need to have:

The Money Talk. What’s their financial situation? Do they have enough to pay their bills right now? What if they live another ten or twenty years? Do they have a will? Do you know where the will is, and the name of the estate planning attorney who created it? Do they have powers of attorney for finances in place?

The Health Talk. Medical issues that you’ve heard about but aren’t fully informed about need to be clarified. What medications do they take, and is there a list posted on the refrigerator, or located somewhere you can get to it, in the event of an emergency? Have they properly documented a power of attorney for healthcare?

The Aging Talk. Do they plan on aging at home, or are they considering moving to a continuing care facility? What senior living options should they consider, if and when they can’t live on their own anymore?

The End of Life Talk. This is the hardest one, but it is hard for everyone. If they should have a terminal illness, what do they want to happen? Do they have a medical directive, or a living will? How do they feel about extreme measures being taken to sustain life, if they are incapacitated?

The Family Legacy Talk. This is a warmer, happier conversation. What do they want the family to remember about them, and how can you work together to assemble the things that will help accomplish this? Are there family recipes, photo books, treasured heirlooms, videos or jewelry they want to pass along? Are there stories they want to share?

Note that these are not one-time conversations, but processes. Everyone will respond differently, and some parents may need more time to reflect and consider their answers than others. Your parents will need to be ready to have these conversations with you. Some conversations may touch on a raw memory and have to stop, to resume at a later point.

Depending on your parents’ personalities, you may want to speak with them together, if they are both living, or individually. One might be more comfortable discussing certain matters without the other present.

Take notes of the conversation. You’ll be able to review the notes with them if need be and share that information with siblings and family members. You can also see what’s left out. Your notes are not a legally binding document, but they can help when their wills are created or revised.

Estate planning attorneys work with families and aging issues on a regular basis and will be able to discuss these matters with your parents and with you. They’ll know about issues you may not even be aware of. If possible, go with your parents to meet with their estate planning attorney, so that everyone is on the same page.

Reference:Next Avenue(September 21, 2018) “How to Have Difficult Conversations With Your Aging Parents”

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