Estate planning is intensely personal. The terms individuals include in these documents reflect their values and the relationships they have with the people in their lives. Sometimes, people who create estate plans – for whatever reason – simply wish to completely keep an immediate family member, like a spouse or child, from receiving an inheritance.
Is this possible? It depends.
In Louisiana, probate law is clear about inheritance rights.
Disinheriting children, parents, siblings and spouses in Louisiana
If an individual dies without a will in the state of Louisiana, the law states that their immediate family members have the right to inherit. The person’s spouse has the strongest right, followed by children, then parents.
The law differs if a person has executed a will before dying. A person can in fact choose to disinherit family members.
However, there is an exception: they cannot completely disinherit their spouse. This is because, under Louisiana state law, much of a married person’s assets are considered community property, which means a person’s spouse already has an ownership interest in those assets.
Steps to disinherit an immediate family member
If a person chooses to disinherit a child, for example, they must take certain steps. Simply omitting someone’s name from a last will is likely to not be sufficient to disinherit that individual.
For example, let’s say a person creates a will and that person has four children. They opt to name three of the children as beneficiaries of their estate but do not want to include the fourth child so they simply omit the child’s name.
During probate, that fourth child could potentially challenge the will and claim that the omission was, for instance, an accident and thus should be entitled to a share of the estate.
In another instance, Louisiana state law is specific to the rights of forced heirs. For example, forced heirship prevents a person from disinheriting a child under 24 years of age under most circumstances. As in the example above, this opens the door to a costly challenge of the will.
Rather than just leaving someone out of the will or other estate planning documents, an individual should directly state with clear intentions that they do not intend for a specific person to inherit their property. Some opt to include a brief reference to this in a last will or trust and expand on that decision in an explanatory letter included with the estate plan.
Determining what information will be necessary to truly outline your wishes without any possible future disputes should be done with the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.