Ever had a wild hair that you wanted to exclude an heir? Heirs are the people who will inherit our estate if we do NOT have a plan. If those are NOT the people you want to benefit, then you need to plan.
Usually, your heirs are your spouse and children. The law provides special protections for them. If you leave your spouse out of your will or if you give your spouse less than what he or she would have gotten under the law, your spouse can choose to take what the law would give. A prenuptial agreement can limit the spouse’s share.
You do not have to leave a child anything in a will; but, you must name the child in your will. If you do not name a child, the law assumes that you forgot that child. A forgotten child takes what his share would have been if there had been no will. Even if the child gets nothing under the will, the child is required to be notified of the probate and sent a copy of your will. You won’t be able to keep the information private. If you do not want the excluded child to know, consider a trust.
A trust is more private. You are not required to list your children in a trust, but it is good practice to do so. If you leave anything to a child in the trust, even one dollar, the child will be entitled to a copy of the trust. If you do not want the child to be informed or even contacted, do NOT give anything to the child.
Rather than excluding a wild heir, you may want to consider minimal gifts or restricted gifts. Limit access to the gifts until times of great need or only make distributions to the child to match the child’s earnings.
Whatever you decide, use an attorney if you decide to exclude a wild heir. Unwitting mistakes can ruin your plans.
Karen Baim Reagler practices law in Hot Springs, Arkansas and is available to meet with clients in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas. She focuses her practice on estate planning, wills, trusts, probate and trust administration, guardianships, and business succession.