How to Write Children Out of a Will

by Teo Spengler Google

    Most states in the United States allow parents to disinherit their children. An estranged child is only one possible scenario; parents may also cut off one adult child to assist another child who is disabled, in greater need or who helped the parents during the final years of their life. Most jurisdictions permit disinheritance of offspring for any reason, but protect against accidental disinheritance. The key to successfully writing a child out of a will is making clear that you acted deliberately.

    Step 1

    Prepare information and make essential decisions about your will. List your assets and the person or persons who you wish to inherit each asset. Name the person to receive any property you have not specially bequeathed. Decide who is to be your executor -- the person who is responsible for administering your estate. The executor's main job is to transfer the estate assets to the correct party after your death.

    Step 2

    Prepare a will using the above information. Add whatever other terms are necessary in your state to validate the will.

    Step 3

    Draft a will provision mentioning each child that you wish to cut out of the will. Name the children, identify them as your children and specify that they are to receive nothing. Add an explanation if you wish, but refrain from making negative or aggressive statements about the children which might trigger a will contest. Some states require you to leave each child a token amount, such as $1.

    Step 4

    Consider -- as an alternative -- leaving each child something of value in your will -- for example, $1,000 -- then adding a no-contest clause. A no-contest clause -- formally termed an in terrorem clause -- is a provision in a will stating that any heir who unsuccessfully challenges the will forfeits his inheritance. This essentially punishes an heir for contesting a will. Most states enforce such clauses, though a few states, such as Florida, do not consider them valid.

    Tips & Warnings

    • Make it clear in your will that you have not forgotten any of your children. If a child can establish that he was forgotten, he may be able to obtain the same share as his siblings.
    • Consider informing your children during your lifetime of the contents of your will. Disinheritance can destroy sibling ties and leave scars that last a lifetime.

    About the Author

    Living in France and Northern California, Teo Spengler is an attorney, novelist and writer and has published thousands of articles about travel, gardening and law. Spengler holds a Master of Arts in creative writing from San Francisco State University and a Juris Doctor from UC Berkeley. She is currently a candidate for a Master of Fine Arts in fiction.

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