3 important rules for those planning to disinherit family members

On Behalf of | Aug 22, 2023 | Estate Planning

There are many reasons why one person might choose to disinherit a family member who expects to receive property from their estate. Perhaps the testator no longer has a close relationship with that particular individual. Maybe their relationship is still solid, but they worry about someone misusing the inheritance because of an addiction or providing resources to a romantic partner who is problematic.

Whatever the motivation behind this inheriting someone may be, testators in Minnesota need to plan very carefully if they don’t want their decision to disinherit specific people to prevent the courts from upholding their overall estate plan.

Wills cannot violate state law

In Minnesota, there are rules that specifically protect the inheritance rights of a spouse. Someone married at the time of their death does not generally have the option of disinheriting their spouse. Even if someone puts instructions in their estate plan stripping their spouse of inheritance rights, they could challenge those instructions and potentially still receive up to 50% of the testator’s estate.

Omitting a name is not adequate

To effectively eliminate someone’s interest in an estate as an immediate family member, particularly when others with a similar relationship will inherit property, a testator needs to take special steps. They will either need to explicitly explain their desire to disinherit someone or leave them specific property with minimal financial value. Either of those tactics may work, but simply leaving someone out of a will might result in a challenge based on claims of inaccurate documents and oversights.

Recognize that disinheritance may lead to challenges

The decision to strip someone of their inheritance is usually not one that a testator makes lightly. However, they may not relish the idea of discussing the matter with their family members. Despite how uncomfortable such conversations can be, they are usually necessary if someone wants their family members to accept their decision to disinherit someone rather than to fight it. Additionally, testators might want to consider adding a no-contest clause that will impose penalties on anyone who challenges their estate, possibly by fully disinheriting them.

The right inclusions and language in an estate plan can help someone achieve their goals, even if their goal is to strip a family member of the inheritance that they expect to receive. Understanding the rules that apply to different estate planning decisions may benefit those hoping to leave behind a plan that truly reflects their relationships and values.