Top 8 reasons for cutting a child out of your will

Clients are often reluctant to talk about cutting a child out of their will.  But there can be some good, legitimate reasons for disinheriting a child.    And under Ohio law you can do it if you go about it properly.  But just failing to mention a child in a will is not sufficient.  You must be specific about your intent.  And you may want to avoid cutting them out completely and instead leave them some inheritance, even if it is a small one.

Keep in mind that a will alone may not be sufficient to accomplish your goals.  There may be other planning options that better accomplish your goals under the existing circumstances.  Trusts are often used in these situations for example.

The top reasons why someone would consider cutting a child out of their will may include the following:

  1. The child has a severe physical or mental disability such that they cannot care for themselves, and a governmental benefits program is necessary for their continued care.  Leaving money to them directly is not a good option, so disinheriting them in the will may be best.  But there may be ways to help the child using a special needs trust designed for that purpose.
  2. The child has an addiction or substance abuse problem. If the child was to receive a sizable inheritance directly this may simply cause more problems.   However, if you don’t want to cut them out completely there may be ways to provide for the child with some careful planning.
  3. The child is a compulsive gambler or has extreme debt.  Receiving a sizable inheritance at one time may end badly and is not likely to go as you intend.  Here again there may be ways to provide for the child with some careful planning.
  4. The child is in a bad marriage which is likely to end in divorce.  If an inheritance is received directly it may complicate matters and the money may wind up benefitting their spouse more than your child.
  5. There is a child with which you have never had any relationship.  Despite the lack of relationship this child has all of the same rights as your acknowledged children.  If you don’t specifically disinherit them they may be able to claim part of your estate.
  6. You and the child are estranged and/or you have not seen or heard from your child in many years.  It is unfortunate but it happens frequently for a variety of reasons.  In these situations, particularly if there are others who have cared for you, it is important to make sure your will or other planning documents reflect your wishes.
  7. One child is independently secure and would prefer to see his or her siblings get their share because they need it more.  There is no law that requires you to split your estate equally among your children.  It is more important to do it equitably.
  8. One child has received much financial help during their lifetime, while the other children have not.  In this case it may best to specifically state in the will that the one child has already received their inheritance and give the bulk of the estate to the other children.

If you have any of these situations you need to do some estate planning and make sure your wishes and intentions are followed.  Otherwise under the law your estate may pass in a way that you never intended.


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