Family dynamics can be complicated. Even with the best of intentions and efforts, it is possible that rifts created by family disputes may never heal. In those sorts of unfortunate situations, you may want to plan to change your estate plan to omit a particular member of your family from inheriting your assets after you pass away. Disinheriting your spouse or your children is not as straightforward as it may seem.
In Minnesota, there are only very limited ways in which you can disinherit your spouse. Your spouse has a right to his or her share of what is referred to as an “augmented estate.” An augmented estate is the value of your assets plus the value of your spouse’s assets. The spouse is then entitled to a certain percentage of the estate. The percentage your spouse may be entitled to depends on how long you have been married, starting at three percent for a marriage of just a year and capping at fifty percent for those who have been married fifteen years or longer. Even if you specifically state in your will that you disinherit your spouse, he or she is still entitled to a share of the estate. The only way this can be avoided is if your spouse has agreed in writing to waive this right. This waiver may be done in an addendum to your will. Another way this can be accomplished is through a valid pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement. A spouse can agree to take a reduced share of the estate or no share at all, depending on the agreement. Either way, it is essential that the spouse seek his or her own independent legal counsel before signing such an agreement to make sure that the contract is binding.
Unlike spouses, it is possible to disinherit a child. A parent may choose to disinherit a child for any or even no reason. The parent should be aware, however, that choosing to disinherit a child can lead to arguments and lingering resentment from the disinherited child toward other family members who do inherit. If the child believes that the decision to not leave any of the assets to him or her is an accidental omission, there may be grounds for him or her to challenge the will. Accordingly, it is important to consult an estate planning attorney to make sure that the terms of your will are not ambiguous.
Contact us today at (320) 299-4249 and let us talk with you about the terms of your will and your goals. We can discuss what we can do to help you with your estate plan.