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How To Prepare To Write A Will

What To Consider If You Want to Disinherit A Spouse Or Child

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Some people may not wish to leave anything to certain family members, such as a spouse or child, who are usually legally entitled to a share of your estate. Some states have provisions that can make this difficult.


  • Generally, it is legal to disinherit a child. However, some states -- such as Florida -- have statutes that protect minor children against losing the family residence.
  • Most states also have laws which assign children not mentioned in your Will a share of your estate on the assumption that you accidentally forgot to include them. In some states, this even applies to your child's children if your child dies.
  • Consider not disinheriting a child completely. Leave the child at least something in your Will. Also in your Will, acknowledge -- without using hurtful language -- that the relationship might not have been the best. This may help prevent legal challenges.
  • If you have any recently born children who are not included in your will, be sure to revise your Will to include them -- or mention that you are not including them.

Spouses: You generally cannot disinherit a spouse completely. In community property states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin, and Alaska if you executed a written community property agreement), your spouse automatically owns half of all the property and earnings acquired by either of you during your marriage. There are a few exceptions including gifts and inheritances.

In other states, state laws give your spouse a legal claim to a portion of your estate no matter what your Will says. However, if he or she doesn't object, a spouse can inherit less than the statutory share.

Consult a lawyer if you do not plan to leave at least half of your property to your spouse in your Will and you haven't provided for him or her outside your Will.

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