What Challenges Could Arise When Disinheriting Someone?

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Disinheriting a family member is the choice of the person who creates the estate plan.

People are responsible for their own money.

They can choose to spend it all before they die, donate it to charity, or leave some, all, or none of it to loved ones.

Essentially, an inheritance is a gift, not a right.

There, I can step down from my soap box now.

According to a recent nwi.com article titled “Estate Planning: Disinheriting a loved one,” the fate of your estate truly is up to you.

Disinheriting family can lead to hard feelings.
Disinheriting family members can trigger anger in those excluded.

You can record your wishes in your estate planning documents.

Because laws can vary by state, it is essential to work with an experienced estate planning attorney in your state of residence when disinheriting one or more people.

Some attorneys prefer to explicitly state the intention of the testator to disinherit a specific individual.

By using phrases such as “I specifically acknowledge that I have made no provision for my daughter Jane Smith and have done so knowingly, intentionally, and for reasons known only to me,” there could be little grounds for this individual to challenge the intention of the estate plan.

Other language could lead to issues.

If you were too specific and cited the reason for disinheritance to be an alcohol abuse issue, then this individual could appeal to the court, claiming the reason stated is no longer an issue.

Another method used in disinheriting people is to include a no-contest clause in the last will and testament.

This type of clause is also called an in terrorem clause.


In terrorem is Latin for “in fear of,” and the clause is used to provide a punishment for challenging a last will.

What types of punishments might a person face for challenging the estate plan?

Some clauses require an automatic removal from a last will or forfeiture of any assets given under the last will.

Other clauses may require the individual to pay for any and all legal expenses associated with the estate battle.


It is easy to see why these clauses could be significant deterrents.

Even so, some states do not allow these clauses to be used in estate planning.

Other states may automatically void these clauses if they appear in a last will.

Indiana previously voided these clauses, but the law changed in 2018 to allow such clauses in the probate courts.

If you are concerned about family members becoming disgruntled about your plans for disinheriting one or more people, these clauses support your wishes.

Ultimately, it is your decision what you do with your assets.

Even so, there may be instances where it would be best to keep your affairs private.

Because the probate court validates and governs last wills, they become public documents.

As a result, anyone could request to read your last will.

When disinheriting certain people, it is often better if they do not know the terms of your estate plan.

An experienced estate planning attorney may recommend a trust to provide greater privacy and protection in such instances.

If you are considering disinheriting individuals, you should work with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure your wishes are followed.

Referencenwi.com (Oct. 15, 2023) “Estate Planning: Disinheriting a loved one”

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