What to do if a family member must be disinherited

An estate owner in North Carolina who wishes to disinherit a family member may want to discuss the process with a professional. Simply leaving a person out of a will or even other actions may be insufficient to stop the person from successfully challenging the disinheritance in court.

A successful challenge might be less likely if a trust is used instead of a will to disinherit the person. Wills are often prepared closer to a person’s death, and it can be argued that the person was not of sound mind or was unduly influenced by someone else. In contrast, a trust is often prepared years beforehand, and the estate owner might have been managing the trust for some time. This could make a successful claim of incompetence less likely. In some cases, a person might want to leave less to one child than to the others. This partial disinheritance might be accompanied by what is known as a “no contest” clause that threatens disinheritance to anyone who challenges the estate plan.

People should review their beneficiary designations and make changes to them if necessary. A person who has remarried and whose children have a contentious relationship with the new stepparent might want to ensure the estate remains in control of the new spouse in order to protect that spouse.

An attorney could help an estate owner in understanding what types of trusts might be helpful given the family situation. For example, a person might not want to disinherit a family member but may be worried that the family member will not be responsible with an asset. The asset could be placed in the trust to be controlled by the trustee with distributions only made to the beneficiary at certain times.