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A Last Will and Testament Lawyer’s Guide to Disinheritance in Florida

On Behalf of | Oct 31, 2020 | Firm News

Not all parents have good relationships with their children. In such cases, parents may have questions when they visit a last will and testament lawyer. For parents whose children’s behavior has been egregious, it’s common to eventually give up on ever having positive relationships. However, are such parents obliged to leave an inheritance to their estranged children?

According to Florida law, the answer to this question is no. The law states a parent can entirely disinherit adult children unless certain circumstances prevail. Here, we take a look at the situations in which a parent must leave his or her estranged child an inheritance.

Does A Court Order Prevail?

The law in Florida states parents may choose to leave estranged children very little or nothing of their estates. The only situation in which this is not possible is when a court issued an order during a divorce. This applies if a child support order is in place for a minor child. It also applies if there have been certain property settlement agreements made. One example could be if the court obliges both parties to make provisions for their children, whether adults or minors.

The Importance of Estate Planning

If you’re planning to disinherit your adult child, having a clear estate plan is vital. This also holds if you plan to leave your child only a small portion of your estate. If you die with no estate plan in place in Florida, intestacy laws will determine who receives your assets. Florida law says if you don’t have a surviving spouse, your estate will pass to any lineal descendants.

The law requires you to recognize your children. Should you want to disinherit your child, you should acknowledge his or her existence in any will you draw up. In this document, you should state you won’t make any provisions for that child or his or her lineal descendants. There is no need to state the reason why you’re choosing to make no provisions. Should you state the reason, this could prompt your child to challenge the will.

Can I Leave $1 to My Child?

Acknowledging your child by leaving just $1 to him or her in your will isn’t a wise idea. If you leave any sum of money, the law allows that child to automatically receive legal rights to information about the estate. He or she won’t even need to file a lawsuit to do so. Also, you must have that $1 delivered to your child and obtain a receipt. Should a court representative not obtain a receipt, there must be a note filed with the court registry. This is so the beneficiary can receive it later. All this leads to delays, stress, and additional costs for your trustee or personal representative.

Leaving Modest Sums to An Estranged Child

Sometimes, you may wish to leave your estranged child only a modest sum of money. In such cases, the court recommends you exclude the child under the will as a beneficiary. Instead, you should name him or her as a designated beneficiary of one specific asset. This may be an account payable on your death by your bank to your chosen beneficiary. This will ensure you keep the estate and your trustee or personal representative out of this process.

What About No-Contest Clauses?

No-contest clauses state that any beneficiary challenging the estate receives nothing. Some people hope that by adding such a clause to their wills, it’ll discourage the children in question from causing trouble. Sadly, while this is sometimes viable in different states, no-contest clauses are unenforceable in Florida.

To find out more about your legal obligations when disinheriting a child, consult a last will and testament lawyer. Our team is on hand to answer your questions and offer you guidance.