Can a Parent Disinherit a Child or Grandchild?

Therefore, if you wish to disinherit any of your children or grandchildren, then your Will must rebut any legal presumption that these children or grandchildren were simply forgotten. To do this, your Will should specifically and expressly name the children (and any grandchildren whose parent, i.e., your child, has died) who you intend to disinherit, and also expressly state that these children and/or grandchildren are not to receive anything under your Will. Doing so will prevent a disinherited child or grandchild from claiming that they were mistakenly left out of your Will.

Of course, you cannot disinherit by name a child who was not yet born when you executed your Will. Consequently, it’s very important that you update your Will any time a new you have a new child (either through birth or legal adoption). Similarly, you must also update your Will anytime a child of yours dies if you wish to disinherit any of that child’s children.

It's perfectly legal to disinherit one or more of your children or grandchildren in your Will. This is often done where a parent has already provided for a child elsewhere –through a large gift or a prearranged trust, for instance. But it’s not necessary that your excluded child be provided for elsewhere, which means you’re completely free to leave nothing at all to any or all of your children if you desire.

Nonetheless, the law attempts to prevent children (and in certain instances children of a deceased child of yours –i.e., your grandchildren) from being accidentally disinherited. That is, if a child already alive at the time your Will is executed is left out of your Will, the law may presume that you simply forgot to make a provision in your Will for this child. Similarly, if a child who has not been born at the time your Will was executed is not provided for in your Will, the law may assume that you just forgot to update your Will following the birth of this new child. Any such “overlooked” child (or the child of an “overlooked” deceased child of yours), therefore, could be entitled to a predetermined statutory share of your estate as set forth under the laws of intestate succession as if you never had a Will in the first place. This can lead to some very unexpected – and possibly undesirable – results.

For the reasons set forth above, It's important that you update your Will any time you have a new child (either through birth or legal adoption).