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Can I Disinherit My Child?

Television producer and personality Simon Cowell has reportedly stated that he intends to leave his fortune to charity rather than to his son. People choose to disinherit their children for a variety of reasons, and if you wish to do so you should prepare a will.

Make a will

By preparing a will, you can determine who receives your property after you die. However, simply leaving the child you wish to disinherit out of your will is not advisable. Your child could attempt to claim a share of your estate under the pretermitted children provisions of Florida's probate code by arguing that the omission was unintentional. A better option is to clearly state in your will that you do not wish to leave your child anything. You do not need to give your reasons for doing so. 

Some people like to leave a nominal sum (such as one dollar) to their child in order to show that they recognize the child, but this is not usually a good idea. By inheriting this nominal sum, the child becomes a beneficiary, which gives them certain rights, such as the right to information. They would then be in a position to hamper the smooth progress of the probate process if they so desired.

Statutory restrictions

Under Florida's Constitution, as well as the Probate Code, minor children have rights to the homestead, regardless of what is stated in the will. Additionally, if you are not survived by a spouse, your child may be entitled to exempt property such as household furniture. In certain circumstances, a dependent child may also claim a reasonable family allowance for their maintenance of up to $18,000. Any existing court orders for child support may be binding on your estate.

Alternatives

You may wish to disinherit your child because you are concerned that they may squander or misuse the property they receive. Perhaps they have drug or alcohol abuse issues. There may, however, be an alternative to complete disinheritance. You could set up a testamentary or living trust through which money your child inherits is strictly controlled by a neutral party, and is distributed to them only for specific purposes such as education, housing, medical and rehabilitation expenses. 

If you are considering disinheriting your child, speak to an experienced Orlando wills and probate attorney who can advise as to the best way to proceed.

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