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How to Disinherit Someone from a Will

Estate planning is all about ensuring that your assets end up in the right hands. But when circumstances and relationships change, so can your estate plan. Sometimes this means having to disinherit someone from your will. 

Disinheritance is always a sensitive and difficult decision. Understanding how to properly disinherit someone—and why you might need to do so—can help make the process a little easier. Here’s our advice on disinheritance in estate planning. 

Six Reasons for Disinheritance

Disinheriting someone from a will is a highly personal matter, and there are many reasons why you could come to that decision. If you’re not sure whether you should disinherit someone—especially a family member—keep these common and logical reasons in mind. 

1: Divorce

It’s always important to update your estate plan when your marital status changes, especially if you get divorced. If you are not on good terms, you may need to disinherit your ex-spouse from your will to ensure that your assets go to the right beneficiaries. 

After a divorce, you will also need to update your life insurance policy, retirement accounts, and any other accounts that designated your spouse as your beneficiary. Even if you leave them out of your will, your ex would still receive the proceeds of life insurance, retirement accounts, etc., if they are still named as a beneficiary. 

Keep in mind that in Arizona, spouses are legally entitled to half of any shared or “community” property. Any property you acquire during your marriage is considered community property and belongs to both you and your spouse, even if only one of your names is on the need. You will not be able to fully disinherit your spouse until you are legally separated. 

2: Estrangement

Another common reason to disinherit someone is because you no longer have a good relationship with them. If you become estranged from one of your children or another family member, it might make sense to disinherit them from your will. This reason is often why parents disinherit a child or someone disinherits one of their siblings. 

3: Health Status

A drastic change in the health of a loved one could mean that you need to disinherit others in order to provide health care. This is one reason why it’s important to regularly review your estate plan. 

Periodic reviews give you an opportunity to evaluate how your assets are proportioned, so you can redistribute them if necessary. If there’s anyone in your estate plan who doesn’t need to be included, you can disinherit them to help leave a larger inheritance to someone with ongoing medical expenses. 

But if you are leaving an inheritance to someone with special needs, it’s crucial that you set up a trust. Leaving an inheritance in your will might disqualify them from receiving important government benefits. A special needs trust, however, will not affect their eligibility.  

4: Change in Financial Needs

Sometimes, parents wish to disinherit one child to help support another. Say your youngest child just graduated from high school and is facing years of educational expenses. Your oldest child has long graduated, has a stable income, a home, and is married. You may choose to disinherit the financially successful child so you can give a larger inheritance to your youngest. 

However, it’s wise to discuss this type of disinheritance with your children ahead of time. When you have a good relationship with your kids, you don’t want to blindside them with your final wishes. Discussing your estate plan as a family will help you divide it as fairly as possible

5: Financial Irresponsibility

Another reason why parents might decide to disinherit a child is because of financial irresponsibility. Excessive debt, creditors, poor money management skills, and struggles with addiction are all common grounds for disinheritance. 

While this reason for disinheriting a child is one of the more difficult ones, it can be the best way to protect your assets from being misused. It can also protect your child from their own destructive behaviors. 

6: Prior Support or Gifts 

You might also wish to disinherit someone if you’ve already provided substantial financial support or significant gifts to them during your lifetime. Since you have already expended a considerable amount of your assets to support them in the past, leaving them out of your will can allow you to distribute your assets more fairly to others. 

How to Disinherit Someone from Your Will

The process of disinheritance is easier with more distant relatives, because they have no automatic rights to an inheritance after you pass away. However, disinheriting spouses or children is more complicated.

For instance, unless you pass away without a will and have no surviving spouse or children, then your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. are not entitled to anything. Disinheriting these relatives can be as simple as removing them from your will. But if you wish to disinherit a spouse or one of your children, you’ll need to take a few extra steps.

How to Disinherit a Spouse

Arizona is a community property state, which means that your spouse is entitled to half of your shared property after you pass away. Community property is any asset that you acquired during your marriage, even the ones that are titled solely in your name. The only way to disinherit your current spouse in Arizona is to have them sign a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement

How to Disinherit a Child

Children who are still minors when you pass away are legally protected from disinheritance. Under Arizona law, they are entitled to a share of your estate, no matter what. 

However, adult children are less protected. While they are legally entitled to a portion of your estate, they can still be disinherited. However, simply removing their name from your will is not enough. You must specifically state in your will that you wish to disinherit them. 

How to Disinherit Stepchildren

The rules are different for children in blended families. Stepchildren do not automatically inherit anything from a step parent who passed away. If they are not already included in your estate plan, then you don’t have to do anything for disinheritance. But if you have named your stepchildren in your will or trust, you will need to remove their names if you wish to disinherit them. 

Will & Trust Attorney in Arizona

We understand that disinheritance is a difficult decision. If you need help disinheriting someone from your will, the compassionate Phelps LaClair team can help. We have over 40 years of experience helping Arizona residents tailor their estate plans to their unique needs. 

Whether you need to adjust how your assets are distributed or remove a beneficiary entirely, we’re here to help. Give us a call at 480-892-2488 today to schedule your free consultation. 


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (7/26/2023). Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash 

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