Intestate succession laws determine who receives your property if you pass away without a valid will. These laws favor your closest living relative, but you can generally disinherit a family member by creating a will that does not specifically leave them an inheritance. 

Estate Planning Lawyer Alperin Law

Understanding Who Has a Right to an Inheritance

If you are legally married, it is nearly impossible to disinherit a spouse. Virginia views marriage as an economic partnership. Unless you have a prenup or your spouse voluntarily chooses to forfeit their share, your spouse is entitled to one-third to one-half of your estate regardless of your wishes.

Your children, grandchildren, and other relatives have no legal right to an inheritance. You can disinherit them simply by creating a will that does not leave them any of your assets. However, it is important to use specific language that makes it clear they were not inadvertently omitted. If a will is ambiguous and your family member would stand to inherit under intestate succession laws, they could decide to challenge the will in court.

Reasons to Disinherit a Family Member

Some common reasons that people may wish to leave a family member out of their will include:

  • You don’t believe the person needs an inheritance
  • You’ve already provided significant financial support
  • You’ve left the person property that passes outside the will
  • You’ve had a falling out with the individual and are no longer in contact
  • You want to leave a bigger portion of your estate to someone else
  • You don’t agree with the person’s lifestyle choices
  • You don’t believe the person will use the money wisely

Disinheriting a family member is not a decision to be made lightly. There is a strong possibility this will lead to conflict among your surviving family members. The person who has been disinherited is likely to be angry. They may lash out at other relatives or even try to challenge the terms of the will in court.

Using a Trust to Gain More Control Over How an Inheritance Is Used

One common concern when people wish to disinherit a family member is the belief that the inheritance won’t be spent wisely. This could be due to past financial mistakes, immaturity, mental illness, or a substance abuse problem. In many cases, creating a trust can let you leave an inheritance for your family member while preventing misuse of the funds. Trusts can provide smaller disbursements and specify that the funds must be used for specific purposes such as postsecondary education or buying a home.

Do You Need To Speak With A Lawyer About Estate Planning?

If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call our Virginia Beach office directly at 757.490.3500 to schedule your free consultation. We have offices throughout Virginia including Chesapeake, Newport News, Norfolk and Suffolk.

Scott Alperin
Experienced Estate Planning & Elder Law Attorney Serving Virginia Beach Area Clients Since 1994.