Probate Misconceptions- Disinheriting an Heir for a Dollar?

As a Tennessee probate attorney, I field many different questions from clients and potential clients. Popular misconceptions or “urban legends” are the motivation behind some of these probate questions. Many people will assume a particular fact because they heard it from a friend or family member. However, like many areas of life, it is always best to take these probate “urban legends” with a grain of salt. If you have any probate questions, be sure to contact the Nashville probate attorneys at The Higgins Firm.

One of those popular misconceptions is that leaving one dollar to an heir in your will is the only way to disinherit that person. The thought process behind this concept is that by leaving a dollar to an individual in a will, that person cannot inherit any more than that amount. However, leaving a dollar to someone in your will is completely unnecessary. While the disinherited will in fact receive only a dollar, there is a much easier way if you are seeking to disinherit an individual. The alternative is as simple as not naming that individual within your will.

Some wills include an introductory clause stating that the decision to not provide for those not listed within the will is intentional. This is allows everyone to know that those not listed within the will have been excluded without the necessity of specifically naming individuals. By leaving someone out of your will, you are able to accomplish the goal of disinheriting the individual without calling more attention to the situation.

However, you may feel that it is necessary to specifically exclude someone by name. Doing so allows the individual to understand that they have been excluded. While this is not often recommended, it can be helpful if there is likely a contested matter within the family. It can help to quell any potential dispute.

Understandably, disinheriting an individual from your will can be a difficult decision. You may have a number of reasons for doing so. A person may choose to leave someone out of their will because they are very well off and any assets would be better utilized someone else. A person may also choose to leave an heir out of their will because the heir would not be capable to handling an inheritance due to some poor life choices. Whatever the reason, you are not obligated to document the reason why. In fact, it is recommended that you do not list a particular reason. Listing a particular reason can only incite a potential dispute.

While you have the ability to disinherit almost any potential heirs in your will, there are some limitations. For example, if disinherited, a spouse has the ability to elect against the will depending on the length of a marriage. However, for the most part, you have the ability to disinherit your heirs if you so choose.

If you have any Tennessee probate or wills questions, contact our Nashville probate attorneys at The Higgins Firm. We would be happy to answer your questions.