Leaving People Out: How to safely disinherit a family member

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“To my first wife Mabel, who I always promised to mention in my will, Hi Mabel!” All joking aside, there are often good reasons why a person or couple may decide to leave someone out of their estate plan. Perhaps a child has already received substantial gifts during the parents’ lifetimes. It could also be that one child is financially secure while the other is not so well off. Whatever the reason, Nevada law protects the rights of an individual to disinherit someone who otherwise would be entitled to inherit.

The easiest way to disinherit someone is simply to leave them out of your will or trust. If the person is not specifically mentioned, the legal presumption is that they don’t get any part of the trust or estate (although some people—such as surviving spouses—cannot be wholly disinherited, no matter what you put in your will or trust). The problem with simply leaving someone out of your will is that after you’ve passed away they may—and probably will—complain that they were only left out because of the nefarious anglings of their luckier family members who were included in the will or trust.

The better alternative to leaving someone out of the will or trust is to specifically state in the will or trust that they are being intentionally disinherited, the reason they’re being disinherited (“..because you married Frank, whose barbeque dinners I never could stand!”), and that, if they contest your will or trust, they will be deemed to have pre-deceased you and will receive nothing.

Nevada law specifically authorizes a will or trust to include language prohibiting will or trust contests in court and these bans will be upheld so long as there really isn’t anything wrong with the will or trust. Finally, if you are planning to disinherit a family member who expects to receive something after your death, it may make sense to break the bad news to them before you die so they won’t contest your estate plan in court after you’re gone (the prospect of a will contest after you’re dead may be preferable to the awkward moments at family reunions that may occur after you let Uncle Frank know he’s being disinherited because you couldn’t stand his barbeques).

Estate planning, particularly when disinheritance is contemplated, can be a difficult process but if done correctly can save your estate significant legal expenses and courtroom drama after your death.

Clifford Gravett is an attorney with the Virgin Valley law firm of Bingham Snow & Caldwell. He is licensed to practice in Nevada, Arizona and Utah. He can be reached at 702-346-7300, cliff@binghamsnow.com, or 840 Pinnacle Court, Suite 202 in Mesquite.  

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