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How do I purposefully disinherit an heir?

While you can easily disinherit a nonheir by not mentioning him or her in your will, the rules are more complicated when it comes to your heirs. Merely not mentioning the name of a child or spouse in your will might not disinherit him or her, and doing so can even open the door for a will contest. In a will contest, the heir who is left out could argue that he or she was mistakenly overlooked. The outcome of a will contest depends in part on your state's law regarding an omitted (referred to as "pretermitted") spouse or child.

To be sure that your intent to disinherit an heir is unequivocal, you should consider including a disinheritance clause in your will. Such a clause can discourage the disinherited heir from contesting your will. This clause would indicate the exact name of the heir you wish to disinherit, and explicitly state that the reason he or she is not included is because you wish to disinherit him or her.

Be aware that, in most states, you cannot disinherit your spouse completely. If you live in a community property state, your spouse automatically owns one-half of the community property, which generally includes property that either of you acquired during your marriage. In all states, spouses are protected from disinheritance because they're allowed to claim a statutory share (also known as "electing against the will"). A statutory share can run anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of an estate, regardless of the terms of your will.

Even though you have the right to disinherit a child, be aware that this right is restricted by laws granting certain inheritance rights to minors and protecting children of any age from accidental disinheritance.

If you are concerned about whether your heir can manage an inheritance but don't want to disinherit him or her, you might consider a trust for the benefit of the heir.

You should consult an estate planning attorney if you're considering disinheriting an heir, or if you have concerns about whether your heir can manage the inheritance.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual's personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2020.