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Legal How-To: Omitting Relatives From Your Will

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

If you don't have the best relationship with some of your relatives, omitting those family members from your will is one option to consider.

One example comes from late fashion designer L'Wren Scott. She left her entire estate to her boyfriend, Rolling Stone lead singer Mick Jagger. Noticeably absent from her will are her two siblings.

So if you don't want your relatives to inherit your estate upon your death, here's a general overview of how to omit them from your will:

1. Make Your Intentions Clear.

The first step to omitting relatives from your will is to simply make a valid will. This is important because if you die without a will, your state's intestate succession laws will govern who's in line to inherit from you. So make a will that clearly identifies who should inherit your property after you die.

It's also wise to explicitly state that you're purposely omitting certain people from your will, to show your omission was not a mistake. For example, a clause that states, "I've intentionally omitted to provide herein for any of my heirs and relatives living at the time of my death" may be sufficient.

2. Revoke All Prior Wills.

Suppose things were still great with your brother when you made your first will, but now family drama is driving you to want to disinherit him from your estate. You'll need to revoke or update that prior will. State laws govern how you can revoke a will, but for the most part, you can revoke a will by:

  • Destroying the old will,
  • Creating a new will, or
  • Making changes to the existing will.

However, if you're creating a new will, you must properly execute it and include language that states your intention to revoke all prior wills.

3. Understand Your State's Inheritance Laws.

Depending on the inheritance laws in your state, even if you choose to omit your spouse from your will, he or she may still be able to claim an inheritance. The laws will vary if you're in a community property or separate property state.

Similarly for children, state laws generally allow inheritance claims by those who were omitted from wills by accident and those who were born after a will went into effect.

For other relatives like siblings, aunts, and uncles, it's unlikely that they'll have an inheritance claim under the law if you've explicitly written them out of your will.

Need More Help?

Again, laws about inheritance and omitting heirs from your will vary by state. To make sure your wishes are validly expressed in a will, consider hiring an experienced estate planning attorney for professional guidance.

Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo.

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