So you want to leave an adult child out of your will

As business lawyers, helping business owners with Estate Planning is part of what we do.

I’m not going to write a long and detailed (yawn) blog post about all of the “interesting” technical issues that come up in drafting wills.

Today, I’m going to write a direct and pointed Blog about one issue that can lead to huge legal bills, elimination of any estate left to divide between beneficiaries and a lot of hurt feelings: leaving one of your adult children out of your will.

In the context of business law, this can often happen when one child is running the business and another is not. The person writing the will may choose to leave the business to the child who is running it and instead give the other child a different inheritance.

In a more dysfunctional situation, one child may have had a permanent falling out with a parent and had no contact for years, while another child may have the parent living in their house and caring for them in their senior years.

Regardless of the reason, if you are going to treat one child differently than another in your Will, include a hand written letter to the child(ren) explaining why they are being treated differently.

The purpose of the letter is to try to avoid a law suit over your estate and all the nastiness that flows from that. If the law suit cannot be avoided by the letter, it can be used in the law suit to show the parent had the mental capacity to make the Will and also be used as evidence against a claim of undue influence.

When you are drafting a letter to your excluded child, if possible, do not be cruel: nastiness will only fuel a law suit that will hurt the child you have not excluded. An explanation of your reasons and a sentiment of wishing that child the best, is one of the best gifts you can leave a child and will benefit all involved.

The best advice we give our clients on Estate Planning is “organize your affairs so your family can grieve you, not hate you”. I hope this Blog helps you follow our advice.

Inga B. Andriessen JD