Should I Include My Estranged Child in My Estate Plan?

Estranged child
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Estranged children cannot be ignored in your estate plan.

Families can be sources of great joy and great pain.

Although many people want close and positive relationships with their loved ones, this is not always a reality.

Children become estranged for a variety of reasons.

According to a recent The News-Enterprise article titled “Estate planning must account for estranged children,” strained relationships and family complications may demand more intentional estate planning.

Children may be estranged for a variety of reasons.
You cannot ignore your estranged child in your estate plan.

If you have estranged children, you will want to consider why the relationship has been broken.

Circumstances may include addictions, untrustworthy spouses, and hurtful choices.

It is possible you may not know the reason your loves ones are estranged.

If you do know the reason, you should communicate this to your experienced estate planning attorney.

The circumstances surrounding the broken relationship will often impact your estate plan.

Often addictions are addressed by limiting the access an estranged child has to assets.

While any inheritance can be a blessing or a curse, then the beneficiary is an addict … it is usually the latter.

A common means of protecting a beneficiary “from” his or her inheritance is creating a trust.

Nevertheless, especially in severe cases, providing for an addicted child through a trust could do more harm than good.

In this case, completely disinheriting your child may be the best choice.

Neither creating a trust nor disinheriting a child should be done without the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney.

Not all estranged children are distant from family due to addiction.

Generally, there are three options you can utilize in your estate planning for situations with broken relationships.

What are they?

Outright gift.

An outright gift with no restrictions may be a good idea if your child has no “issues,” like addictions or an untrustworthy spouse.

Leaving a somewhat smaller inheritance could be a good option.

On the other hand, if the amount is too small, it may trigger litigation against your last will and testament.

Testamentary trust.

A testamentary trust is created by your last will and testament after your death.

Assets will be transferred to the trust and controlled by the trustee.

The assets will not be controlled by the estranged heir and will be protected from scammers, divorces, and creditors.

Also, a testamentary trust is supervised on an ongoing basis by a court to make sure all is done according to Hoyle.


With this option, your estranged child will have no part in your estate.

Your estate planning documents must make this clear to avoid contests to your last will and testament.

Will the sins of your child be visited upon the heads of their offspring?

Either way, you will want to be crystal clear regarding whether you are providing for your grandchild even though you are disinheriting their parent.

Doing so includes consideration of who will inherit the portion assigned to your grandchild should he or she die before his or her parents.

In some instances, a letter explaining your reasons to your estranged child may be wise.

Your attorney may recommend handling these sensitive inheritance issues through a fully-funded revocable living trust to avoid probate and thereby lessen the risk of challenges to your estate plan.

Working with an experienced estate planning attorney is necessary to ensure you wishes reflect your goals.

Reference: The News-Enterprise (July 20, 2021) “Estate planning must account for estranged children”

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