Should I Cut My Child Out of My Will?

by Tom Olofsson - Chicago

9:09 A.M. July 5, 2010

Every family is different. When I meet with families for the first time, I tell them that, “there is no such thing as an average family." Every family has a child who has gone through some sort of problems in their life. This may range from physical challenges to addiction and may even have spent time in jail.

This family member may have come out of their challenges with greater strength or the challenges may have crippled them on their path through life.

Some reasons I have heard for disinheriting a family member:

We don’t want our Disabled child to lose her public aid benefits

We are worried that our children will make poor Investment Decisions

Our son has had Business Failures in the past

Our daughter caused a car accident and is in the middle of a Lawsuit

Our son declared Bankruptcy and we do not want our assets to go to his creditors

We do not want the daughter’s husband to get our money in a Divorce

We are worried that the children will Fight over the inheritance

My son was in a Cult and I do not want him to give my assets away

My granddaughter has been in Jail and I do not trust her right now

In past years, parents felt that they needed to disinherit a child who had met with life’s challenges. This was seen quite often when a child or grandchild had a disability. The parents would cut the disabled child out of their will. They might leave a little extra to one of the other children to take care of the one with the disability.

So, if a parent wants to include a troubled child but does not want to throw assets away what can they do?

Today we do not recommend that our clients cut out troubled children. We recommend that they provide for them in their living trust. With proper planning a living trust can allow them to receive benefits only when certain conditions are met or only when the trustee decides it is in the best interest of the child.

We never know, for sure, how a child will end up. The perfect child can become sick and begin to require help managing money. A term in prison may make the child an advocate for good or it may make them a one man wrecking crew. A physical disability may have left them weak and frail inside or it may have built a strong character. A person who has struggled with addiction may overcome it and become a better person or may succumb to it.

No matter how you see your child right now, there is no built-in reason to cut them out of your will or trust. We can always figure out a way for them to receive the benefits they need if you plan ahead and give your successor trustees the proper tools.