How to Legally Disinherit an Heir

Estate planning is a deeply personal undertaking. Many important and profound questions need to be asked and answered during the process, including who will be in charge of and receive your assets upon your death. For many parents, this is an easy call – their spouses (if still living) and their children will be the primary or exclusive recipients of their assets. For some folks, however, this can be a particularly painful decision.

If a mom or dad is estranged from an adult child or that child has problems that would make inheriting a large sum of money a bad or dangerous idea, the decision may be made to have the child receive nothing. But in Michigan, can you “write them out of your will” and keep your assets out of their hands after you die?

Michigan Law Now Allows Disinheriting Adult Children

In Michigan, you can exclude an adult child from your estate plan for any reason or no reason at all. But this was not the case just a few short years ago.

Michigan law allows spouses – or their children if there is no surviving spouse – to claim some portion of their assets through what is called an “exempt property allowance.” The exempt property allowance is a portion of an estate that the surviving spouse (or children if no surviving spouse) may claim through Michigan’s laws of intestate succession in place of what they would receive or not receive if the decedent included them in their will.

The exempt property allowance was a means of ensuring that a surviving spouse and children will not be left completely emptyhanded, even if their late spouse failed to provide for them or intentionally left them out of their will or other estate planning documents. Because of that rule, a Michigan appellate court held in 2015 that a parent could not exclude a child from the exempt property allowance even if they included a disinheriting provision in their will.

In response to that decision, Michigan legislators amended the law regarding the exempt property allowance such that children explicitly excluded from a parent’s will can no longer receive exempt assets under the allowance. Specifically, Michigan law provides that a parent may exclude one or more of his or her children from receiving exempt property or assets if:

  • The parent by will expressly states either that the child takes nothing or takes an amount of $10.00 or less from the estate; or
  • The parent by will expressly states that the child is not to receive exempt property.

Consult an Experienced Estate Planning Lawyer Regarding Disinheriting a Child

While the law allows for disinheritance, there are considerations such as the impact on surviving family members, possible litigation over will and trust provisions, and other consequences that should be addressed in the estate planning process. The decision to exclude a child should be carefully considered because the ramifications could be long-lasting.

As with all estate planning decisions, you should seek the advice of an experienced attorney if you are considering disinheriting an heir. Please contact us today – we’re here to help.

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