Families can be complicated, and it’s not unusual for there to be rifts in some relationships between close relatives. As time passes, you may see less of a relation, or you may even decide to cut ties with them altogether. As you prepare your estate plan, you may have no intention of including this estranged individual in your will and want to know: Can I disinherit my close relative?
In California, the probate code offers protection for some family relationships. For instance, California Probate Code section 21610 has special rules that apply when a spouse is left out of their partner’s will in error.
However, Section 21611 of the California Probate Code states that: the omission can be upheld if it appears it was intentional “and that intention appears from the testamentary instruments.”; The decedent provided for their spouse outside of the estate, and their intention that this outside provision was clearly to be in lieu of passing the estate by testamentary instrument; or “The spouse made a valid agreement waiving the right to share in the decedent’s estate.”
When it comes to omitted children, California Probate Code section 21620 allows them to inherit an equal share to what they would have received if you had died without a will. However, there are exceptions, under Section 21621, and if you can prove that one of them apply, there may not be an issue with leaving your kids out of your will. Specifically, the law provides that a child will not inherit from a parent’s estate if the failure to provide was intentional and the intention appears from the from the testamentary instruments; The decedent had one or more children and “devised or otherwise directed the disposition of substantially all the estate to the other parent of the omitted child.”; or The decedent provided for their child outside of the testamentary transfer and the intention that the provision be in lieu of the transfer “is show by statements of the decedent or from the amount of the transfer or by other evidence”.
Disinheriting other close relatives such as sisters, brothers, parents, nieces, nephews, and cousins, may not present as many issues. Especially if you are leaving your estate to your spouse and children. However, if you are unmarried and don’t have any kids, and decide you want to leave your assets to charity or create a trust for your pet rather than naming your sibling in your will, it’s possible he or she will object. Anytime you plan on disinheriting a close relative in California, you should consult with a California estate planning attorney to discuss the possible potential issues.
At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we have California estate planning attorneys with the experience you need to help prepare for your estate to help ensure that it goes to your intended beneficiaries. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.