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Can you just cut everyone out of your will?

Perhaps you're drafting a will in New York and you honestly don't want to leave your wealth to anyone—not your spouse, not your children and not any other family members. Maybe you've had a falling out or you just don't think they deserve it. No matter the reason, are you allowed to just cut everyone out of your will?

In most cases, you're actually not allowed to do this. You cannot cut your spouse out unless he or she has agreed to be left out of your will in advance. For instance, people sometimes put this into a prenuptial agreement. If you don't have this type of agreement, you can't simply draft a will that gives your spouse nothing.

Of course, there is nothing preventing you from writing your will out as you see fit. However, in most areas, a spouse who doesn't think a will is fair can use the right of election to take a set percentage of the overall estate. This is often capped at one-half.

If you'd like to cut your children out, you can do so if they are no longer dependent on you. Perhaps you have a son or daughter you haven't talked to in 30 years, for instance. To disinherit them, you just need to make your will very clear on the fact that he or she is to receive nothing. However, if you have children who are still dependent on you, they cannot be totally cut from the will, either.

While writing your will, be sure you know what you are legally allowed to do before finalizing the latest draft.

Source: FIndLaw, "Estate Administration: The Will After Death," accessed Nov. 17, 2015

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