When it comes to automatic rights to an inheritance, surviving spouses are generally and mostly protected from disinheritance in the absence of a prenuptial or prenuptial agreement. But what about biological and adopted children? Like spouses, do they have an automatic right to a share of the decedent’s estate or can they be disinherited?
Unlike surviving spouses, children do not have the automatic right to inherit anything from their parents. Under limited circumstances, for example, when a parent dies without a will, children may be legally entitled to a share of their parent’s property under the state’s “intestate succession laws,” which take effect when someone dies without a will.
What About Accidental Disinheritance?
Sometimes, parents will accidentally disinherit a child. This typically occurs when a parent creates an estate plan but they never revise it after a new child is born. Usually, the parent will leave property to the child’s siblings but he or she never got around to updating their estate planning documents to include the new child in the distribution of property.
It’s common for parents to include all of their children in their estate plan, so when one child is left out, the probate courts can presume the parent meant to include their newest child in their estate plan but they hadn’t revised their estate planning documents. In these situations, the court may decide the overlooked child is entitled to the same portion of the parent’s assets as their siblings.
When You Want to Disinherit a Child
It’s more common than you may think for parents to disinherit an adult child because they have had a falling out, because the child is wealthy and doesn’t need the money, or because the child engages in criminal behavior. For these reasons and more, parents may intentionally leave their child out of their will. If you wish to disinherit a child, it’s critical to ensure that you clearly state your intention in the will. And if you have had a new child since you made your last estate plan, be sure to create a new will document.