This time of year usually means togetherness. However, the holidays can also remind us of in-laws and other relatives that we only see once a year or not even at all. So when it comes to drafting your will and estate, how do you OR should you leave these people out of your estate plans?

Some clients are very comfortable omitting people while others want someone to assuage their guilt as they ask questions about “what is normal?” or “what do most people do?” I remind my clients that estate planning is personal and it intended to reflect the client’s wishes. Their estate is the result of their hard work and discipline so the decision as to who should be named as beneficiaries should not be made solely out of guilt and/or obligation.

In Minnesota, if someone dies without a Will or Trust there are intestacy statutes that determine who inherits your estate. Preparing a Will or Trust allows you to designate your beneficiaries and not be subject to only the default rules. Depending on the relationship, omitting or disinheriting may require additional steps.

For example, in Minnesota, if you want to leave your spouse out of your will, the will must have language that specifically and expressly excludes your spouse. Even if you expressly attempt to do so in your will, your spouse may not be completely disinherited in Minnesota. A disinherited spouse may still claim up to one half of your estate, depending on how long you were married. Your spouse has an option of whether or not to take this amount. Similarly, you may also disinherit a child in your will, however, like a spouse, if you want to disinherit your child, it's best to state so specifically and expressly in your will. If a child appears to have been omitted from a will by error or because the child was born after the parent’s death, the child may still be entitled to a portion of the deceased parent’s estate.

Distant relatives can be more easily disinherited by leaving specific gifts and the complete residue to others. For these reasons, we recommend you contact us to make sure that you do not make any missteps in the planning process.

In addition, for many clients, the concern is that omitting or disinheriting will cause hurt feelings or family strife. It is worth noting that unlike a Will, a Living Trust protects your privacy such as your beneficiary choices. One of the benefits of a trust is the avoidance of the probate process. As such, a living trust is a private document between the parties involved and does not become part of the public record. Your estate will be distributed in private.

The decision to disinherit someone is not something to take lightly. If you have a family situation and are thinking about making this decision, please contact an Estate Planning attorney to discuss the appropriate steps.

Questions About This Topic?

Contact us today if you have questions about this topic or if we can assist you with your Estate Planning needs. Fill out the form below, or call our Stillwater, MN office at 651-439-2878 or Hudson, WI office at 715-386-3733.

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