How have intrafamily political disputes affected estate planning?

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2022 | estate planning | 0 comments

Americans seem to be more divided than ever regarding political, social and even health issues. Many of those divisions have caused serious rifts within families. 

Some families have become so divided that people are considering leaving children out of their will and bequeathing their assets to causes and organizations they believe in.

Options other than disinheritance

Everyone has the right to leave their assets to whomever they choose. However, disinheriting a child over a difference in politics – even if you believe it’s really a difference in values – is a big step. It’s one you’re likely to reconsider, later.

Before leaving a child out of your estate plan, consider the reasons you’re doing it. Are you trying to punish them for their views, or do you fear they will use the money to support causes you’re vehemently against?

If the latter is the case, you may want to consider putting assets in a trust with stipulations on how the assets are disbursed and what they can be used for – within limits. For example, you can direct the assets to be used only for their own or their children’s college and postgraduate education. You can’t, however, place restrictions on a trust saying the beneficiary can only receive the money if they change political parties or religions.

Why communication about your plans is necessary

If you still decide to disinherit a child or other loved one, (note that in California you can’t completely disinherit a spouse because of community property laws) it’s important to let them know what you’re doing and explain why. Otherwise, they might think it was an oversight or someone exerted undue influence on you and contest the will. 

If you have more than one child, but you’re only disinheriting one, consider the effect this will have on sibling relationships. Do you really want to divide your family even more? Are your child’s beliefs, however much you may disagree with them, more important than your family bonds?

No one can make this decision but you. However, it’s crucial to think through the potential consequences of disinheriting a loved one and other estate planning options that are available.