Is it legal for you to disinherit immediate family members?

Published By | Dec 1, 2022 | Estate Planning |

While you may have very strong feelings about what others will do with your property when you die, your family members may already have their own expectations. It is surprisingly common for immediate family members to have a profound sense of entitlement when it comes to the assets their loved ones accumulate during their lives.

Those planning their estates in New York may fully realize that their children expect to receive all of their property or that other family members have specific expectations. They may also have little interest in fulfilling those expectations. Some people would rather skip a generation when passing down assets or leave money to charity instead of family members.

Can you choose to disinherit specific family members that you do not want to leave anything to when you die?

You can disinherit most people if you take the right steps

Unless you die without a will, few people actually have a legal right to inherit from your estate. Those inheritance rights that people often reference only apply when someone dies without their own estate plan. Someone without a will depends on intestate succession law to pass their property to their closest family members, starting with their spouse and children.

When someone has documents in place, the instructions they left behind before dying should determine what happens with their property. The only individual who has specific inheritance rights under New York state law is the spouse of the deceased. Marital property rights supersede the instructions provided in a will if someone attempts to fully disinherit their spouse. However, it is possible for someone to limit a spouse’s inheritance to only want the law requires.

They can also disinherit their children, grandchildren or other family members. To do so, it is typically necessary to either specifically address the choice to disinherit someone in the will you create or to leave them a small amount of money or a single physical asset, possibly both. Including them by name in your will is important, as they could otherwise claim that you forgot to add them to your documents and challenge your wishes after you die.

Learning more about how New York probate law operates will help those who want to leave a specific legacy craft more effective estate plans.