Disinheriting someone means cutting someone out of your will who would normally inherit and, therefore, has a reasonable expectation of receiving some portion of your estate. For instance, perhaps you are a parent with three children. They all equally expect to inherit if you don’t have an estate plan, but you can decide to leave one of them out if through the terms of your will.
When people do this, they will sometimes decide to leave one dollar to the heir who they want to leave out of the estate plan. Why do they do this, and is it necessary for you to follow suit?
Reducing the odds of an estate dispute
The reason someone might leave their descendent one dollar is to avoid future legal disputes. The aggrieved descendant may say that the will is fraudulent, that someone put undue influence on the decedent to cut them out, or they must have been forgotten as a result of decedent’s limited cognitive abilities. They will argue that they should still inherit because this isn’t what their parents wanted.
Leaving someone a single dollar gets rid of at least one of these claims because the small bequeath demonstrates that the descendant was, in fact, not forgotten. The decision to leave them nothing was intentional. They are getting a token dollar to make this clear.
But is it necessary to communicate your intent with a one-dollar bequeath?
It is not.
It is often easier and less contentious to just use a disinheritance clause, which identifies the person who will receive nothing and states that the decision to cut them out was intentional.
Disinheriting someone is only one of the complicated parts of estate planning. If you are going through this process, you need to carefully consider all of the legal steps you can take to accomplish your estate planning goals.
Call Sjoberg & Tebelius to discuss your estate planning needs.