In all states except Louisiana* the answer is yes, you can disinherit an adult child. However, if the child is still of age wherein you would be financially responsible for them the same financial rules would apply to the estate if there is money in it.
In order to intentionally disinherit an adult child (as well as spouse, grandchildren, etc.), some states will require specific wording in the Will that would disqualify them from any inheritance and would also stand up to a contested Probate process. In other cases, a simple mention of the name of the intentionally disinherited individual would be sufficient. Please note, I specifically use the “intentionally disinherited individual” phrase because depending on the state an omission of a named individual may be considered as an oversight (actually forgetting to name someone, creating a Will prior to the birth of a child, etc.), and that individual would in fact be entitled to a portion of the estate under the Intestate Succession Laws.
This scenario is of particular interest to me as it plays a very important part in the creation of Vault Keepers. (read the full story in our Blog section “The Idea Behind the Company”) Originally my step-mother alleged that my father specifically stated my sister and I were excluded from his Will but could not recall the phrase used in the Will. Not clearly understanding what she was saying at the time, I mentioned the phrase “intentionally omitted”. She immediately jumped on that phrase stating that was the one in the Will he used; “you and Chris were intentional omitted”. Something did not settle with me regarding that phrase at the time and it was only after long discussions with my sister and husband was I able to pinpoint what was bothering me. The phrase “intentional omission” was MY phrase from years in the legal field, not my father’s. My father always made it a point to specifically name or specifically do something. This was something that his lawyer told him when he divorced my mother. In the divorce decree he specifically mentioned her by name and awarded her $1 for “any and all future earnings and/or assets he may acquire”. Growing up we saw that same type of distinction. One particular incident I recall is after having the same waitress multiple times at a specific restaurant, with the same bad service each time, he finally left her a penny on the table with the credit card receipt (which showed no tip). I asked why a penny, why not just leave nothing? His answer was that he wanted the waitress to understand that he was not “forgetting” to leave her a tip, her service was so poor she did not deserve one.
This was a longer story, but an important one. If you intentionally plan on disinheriting an individual (an adult child, spouse, grandchild, etc.) from your Will, make certain to first check the Inheritance Laws (also referred to as Intestate Succession) for your state. Not all states will allow 100% exclusion for certain family members. Secondly, it is always best to reach out to a local Estate Planning attorney in order to make certain your Will can withstand a contested court hearing. Laws can get complicated and that is why it is best to go with a professional.
Lastly, let us a Vault Keepers maintain those original documents after they have been created. We will keep them secure in a water and fireproof safe, reaching out to you annually to make certain that each of your documents are up to date and ready for when they are needed.
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*In Louisiana they still practice the “forced heirship law”. This is a state law that prohibits disinheriting a child who is under the age of 23 or who is permanently disabled, incapacitated or otherwise cannot take care of themselves. Consult a professional for further information.