Estate Planning, Real Estate, Trusts, Wealth, Will Contests, Wills

How to Disinherit Your Loved Ones (Part 1)

The holidays are my most favorite time of the year for many reasons, with my family being the main one.

In my line of work, I see plenty of people have some very… not-ideal circumstances to deal with when it comes to their family and estate planning.

To put it nicely.

So, contrary to the spirit of the holidays, I want to give some tips and pointers in the next several newsletters and posts on how to exclude (and how to NOT exclude) family members from your estate.

Today’s Tip: Do Not Do a $1.00 Bequest to an Estranged Family Member.
This is a common rumor I hear. It’s weird that out of all the rumors that could be out there for estate planning, this is one of the most common.

This erroneous rumor states that if you want to exclude someone from your estate, you must give them $1.00 because the law requires you to give your family members at least something. Otherwise, according to the rumor, if you don’t give them anything, your family member can contest your will.

This is patently false. I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again, you are free to give however much of your estate to literally anyone and everyone on this planet free of any restrictions under Texas law. You are not obligated to bequest $1.00 to an estranged family member whatsoever in Texas.

In fact, it is not a good idea to bequest $1.00 to a family member because of probate. As a reminder, probate is the process by which you can validate and enforce a will by going before a judge.

Probate states that only specific people (“interested persons”) can get involved in the proceedings. Interested persons can contest a will. If you give someone a dollar, they are now an interested person in the probate proceeding. If you give them nothing, more often than not, the person is not going to be an interested person and cannot contest the will.

Moral of the story? Do not give $1.00 to someone you are excluding from your will or trust. It can backfire dramatically because you’re legally giving this excluded person a chance to mess with the distribution of your estate.