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Can I disinherit my spouse or children?

You might think that your will is the final word on your Washington estate, however big or small it may be. You should do whatever you like with what you leave behind, and give whatever you want to whomever you wish to have it. That’s true, but it’s also not true.

CNBC reports that you cannot cut a surviving spouse out of his or her half of your home or assets and leave everything to a child or another member of your family. If you think using specific language to disinherit your mate can help ensure your wishes are followed, think again. An attorney can advise the spouse to waive the will; once that is done, state law entitles him or her to their portion of the estate. If you have minor children, state law also protects their rights to receive child support to which they are entitled.

If you have had a falling out with an adult child, or you simply think one child needs the money more than the other, you can certainly disinherit them. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t contest your will. They may be reacting out of anger or simply hurt feelings, various attorneys around the U.S. say. They caution that you use as gentle language as possible if you follow this route because the language sticks with children long after you are gone.

Should you decide not to include any language at all and simply forego mentioning a child, that tactic probably won’t work either. A judge may think it an act of carelessness or just an outdated will. In an effort to be fair, the court may consider the child has some claim to the assets after all.

If your parents are living when you make a will, you are not legally required to make them heirs. However, if you do not have children, they will inherit as your next of kin. If your parents die before you and you have no children, your estate again goes to your next-of-kin.

Of course, you can disinherit aunts, uncles and other relatives in favor of just one. However, relatives may also choose to contest your will if they have been left out. Attorneys suggest giving them a small gift to soften the blow and perhaps deter them from contesting it. Another suggestion if you are excluding some people is to use language saying just that—you are intentionally leaving some people out.

This article includes general information about wills and should not be taken as legal advice.

 

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Riach Gese Jacobs, PLLC
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P.O. Box 1067
Lynnwood, WA 98046

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