When veteran television and film star Burt Reynolds passed away last year at the age of 82, several shocking headlines such as “Burt Reynolds Left Son out of Will” appeared in connection with a story about his estate.  As it turns out, Mr. Reynolds left the bulk of his assets to his only son through a trust, and the remainder of his estate passed to his niece.  However, although Mr. Reynolds’s son was provided for by his father, this story raises the issue of disinheriting family.

Disinheriting Children

You may be able to disinherit an adult child in Michigan.  In 2018, the Michigan legislature passed House Bill 4410 creating a law which allows a person to exclude any adult child from their will who is not their dependent from making a claim to receive property from his or her estate after death under the “exempt allowance” provision.  It is more complicated than just putting a provision in your will or trust to disinherit a child – the statute requires specific wording to make sure there is complete disinheritance.  

Disinheriting a Spouse

If you have assets in your probate estate, including language in your will which clearly states that you wish to leave your spouse nothing will not have any effect.  Michigan law provides that your spouse can claim an elective share of your estate  — what that means is that it is very difficult in Michigan to disinherit your spouse, although it is possible with careful planning.   Also,  if you and your spouse had a prenuptial agreement that allowed for disinheritance, a spouse may be disinherited so long as the agreement was properly drafted. 

Disinheriting Other Family

Generally, you are free to disinherit other family members in your will.  However, when certain individuals expect to inherit and don’t, they could decide to contest your will in multiple ways.  One common attack is to claim that you, the testator, did not have mental capacity when your will was executed.  Other claims may be that you were under the undue influence of another at that time or that your will was not properly executed.  One way to prevent a contest is to talk with the family members ahead of time and explain your reasons to leaving your property in a certain manner.  If an honest discussion is not realistic, there are other measures you can take to protect the integrity of your will and estate.

Deciding to disinherit family members is not uncommon.  People have different reasons for doing so such as personal differences or because their heirs have been provided for through other means.  If you intend to leave certain family members out of your will, it is vital that you consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can advise you regarding current law as well as the practical considerations of your decision.

We have extensive experience helping clients prepare their wills and other estate planning documents and can provide you with the insight and guidance you need. Contact us to set an appointment to come in and talk about how we can help you with your estate planning goals.

Post A Comment