Two women with solemn faces sit at a table looking at papers. One rests her head in her chin, the other holds a hand to her temple.

Disinherit Someone from Your Will

A Step-by-Step Guide

Last Updated: August 28, 2023

Key Takeaways:

  • Excluding someone from your Last Will and Testament prevents them from inheriting your assets upon your death. This can lead to family conflict and strained relationships.
  • Laws may specify who you can disinherit, typically restricting the disinheritance of spouses and minor children.
  • It's crucial to update your Will as life changes to avoid accidental disinheritance and potential disputes after death.

What does disinherit mean?

Disinheriting someone means excluding them from your Last Will and Testament and preventing them from receiving your property or assets after you pass away. Disinheritance can cause family tension, sibling conflict, and hurt feelings that can result in loved ones not speaking to each other.
Before making the choice to disinherit a family member or relative in your Last Will, consider the consequences of your decision. In addition to the emotional effect of your passing, unexpected disinheritance details can hurt a loved one's feelings and disrupt their grieving process.

Who do you need to make a Will for?

Step 1: Consider who you can and cannot disinherit

Before deciding to exclude someone from your Will, you must learn the limitations of disinheritance. The restrictions will depend on your jurisdiction. Typically, there are restrictions for disinheriting spouses and children but not parents and extended relatives.

Can I disinherit a spouse?

You cannot legally disinherit a spouse unless they agreed to it in a Prenuptial Agreement PRENUP before marriage. If you haven't created a Prenup and attempt to disinherit a spouse in your Will, your local jurisdiction may override your wishes and give a portion of your estate to your spouse.

Can I disinherit children?

You can disinherit adult children in your Last Will, but minor children are typically protected by law. Adult children can contest a parent's Will if they aren't included as a beneficiary.
The limitations of disinheriting children will depend on your jurisdiction.

Can I disinherit a parent?

Children may disinherit parents who outlive them. Parents are not legally entitled to any of their children's estate. If you are an adult with no children and you do not want a parent to receive a portion or all of your estate, excluding them in your Will is likely the best action.

Can I disinherit extended relatives?

You are not obligated to give extended relatives any of your inheritance. Any individuals who are not legal beneficiaries and are not mentioned in your Will should not receive property to begin with. However, beneficiaries of a previous Will can sometimes contest a new Will if they have been excluded from an updated document.

Step 2: Move forward with your decision

Once you've determined that you can legally exclude someone from your Will, you can move forward with your decision to disinherit them. Remember: This will make a large statement to whoever you're removing from your Will, and it may cause them pain and hardship after your death.

What are the reasons for disinheritance?

It's important to know that you are not alone. Disinheritance is more common than you may think. Some people have their reasons, such as estrangement, lack of relationship, or distrust. Some common reasons for disinheritance are:
  • You have an estranged relationship or minimal contact with heir
  • You believe the heir has enough financial income and inheritance is unnecessary
  • You feel the heir has not supported or cared for you in the past
  • You have already provided past financial support to your child/beneficiary
  • You don't believe that the heir is financially responsible
  • You don't support the heir's lifestyle or behavior
  • You accidentally disinherit someone (meaning you didn't update your Will)

What is accidental disinheritance?

There are cases where individuals accidentally disinherit an heir by failing to update their Will after a major life event. For example, parents sometimes forget to add their newborn children to their Wills after they are born. It is important to maintain and update your Will so you don't accidentally disinherit someone.

Step 3: Update your Will with a disinheritance clause

After considering who you can legally disinherit and deciding that disinheritance is the correct decision, you can ensure that someone is removed as a beneficiary by updating or creating your Last Will and Testament. You may wish to include a reason in your Will. Understand that these words will be your last communication to this person.
It's important to make a Last Will as clear as possible because this document is a personal statement that comes into effect after death. This means that once you pass away, there is no option to ask you for clarification. For this reason, declining to mention an heir entirely can leave a Will open to dispute. To avoid this from happening, clearly describe who you are disinheriting in your Will.

Example disinheritance clause: Using a clause that states the heir will not receive any inheritance, such as, "I am choosing to leave no assets to my daughter, Ashley," confirms that a child has been disinherited from a Will.

Being mindful of updating your estate plans

It's important to regularly update your Will throughout your life as your financial status and family change over time. Update your Will after the following life events:
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Birth of a child
  • Adoption
  • Death of a spouse
  • Death of executor or beneficiary
  • Significant change in assets
  • Starting a business
  • Change of residence
  • Health changes
While some small changes can be made to your existing Will using a Codicil, any major life changes usually require a new Will.