How To Prevent Estranged Relatives From Becoming Lost Heirs
At your first meeting, an estate planning lawyer will tell you with a smile that estate planning is about planning for life, not planning for death. As you get deeper into details, though, you will realize that estate planning is also about not leaving messes for the people you care about to clean up after you are gone. If your only messes are financial ones or a cluttered house full of what estate law euphemistically calls “personal property,” you are lucky. The emotional messes are much more stressful than the physical or financial ones. You might not ever want to think about your estranged relatives again, but the law still considers them family. If you don’t say something about your estranged family members in your will, it will be up to your surviving family members, estranged and otherwise, to persuade the court of what they think you would have wanted. Talking to the family members who are still on good terms with you about the ones who are not is never easy, but it is much more manageable after you have thought things through with an Orlando estate planning lawyer.
Be Specific About Which Relatives Will Inherit and Which Ones Will Not
If you die without a will, your estate becomes the property of your closest surviving relatives. If you write a will, however, you can decide who inherits which of your assets; you can choose to leave your entire estate to friends or charities, even if several close family members survive you. No matter how you divide your assets in your will, the personal representative of your estate is responsible for notifying your surviving family members; in this context, these family members are known as “interested persons” in legal terms. These are some measures you can take to stop your estranged relatives from causing trouble during the probate of your estate:
- Be specific when listing the beneficiaries in your will. If you want to leave some property to your niece Rebecca, don’t just say, “my niece Rebecca.” Give her full legal name and place of residence. If possible, specify her birthdate and exact street address.
- If you have close relatives to whom you do not want to leave any property, indicate this in your will, too. Be as specific with their information as you are with the beneficiaries who will inherit.
- Make a family tree with the addresses of all your relatives. Give it to your estate planning lawyer and review it each year to make updates, such as address changes and grandchildren who have been born since the most recent update.
- If you do not know the addresses of your estranged relatives, hire a forensic genealogist to find their contact information. Be clear with the forensic genealogist that you are seeking this information for notification purposes only.
Contact an Attorney for Help Today
An estate planning lawyer can help you locate estranged relatives and formally disinherit them to avoid complicated disputes during probate. Contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. in Orlando, Florida to discuss your case.