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Estate planning: Advice on how to disinherit a family member

Disagreements are a normal part of family life; however there comes a time when you want to document your decisions regarding the person you trust the most to handle your estate and make certain decisions on your behalf should you become unable to communicate your wishes. And, in some cases you may also want to specify who you do not want to have these powers, and that can be an even tougher challenge with today's probate and estate inheritance laws.

To ensure your wishes are followed to your exact specifications, whatever they may be requires the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney who can walk you through the process to ensure you have a solid estate plan in place that addresses all your concerns and decisions.

One columnist recently answered a Michigan reader's question on what steps a person should take to disinherit a child and ensure he or she does not have the legal authority to make any decisions on the parent's behalf should the parent become incapacitated.

The first step is for the reader to amend his will. Although under Michigan law you do not have to leave any inheritance to a child, if you do not mention your child in your will it could be presumed an oversight by the probate court leaving open the possibility that your will could be contested by that child.

Therefore, it is important that you mention his or her name and state your decision to disinherit that child from your estate. It is also a good idea to check if you have named your child as a beneficiary on any life insurance policies, investments or other accounts. Even if you disinherit him through your will being named as a beneficiary on such items takes precedence over a will.

A durable powers of attorney, and that includes a medical powers of attorney, allows you to specify a primary and secondary, or alternative person who you give the authority to handle your affairs during your lifetime and ensure your health care directives are followed.

Because disinheriting a child increases the possibility that your will could be contested through probate litigation it is a good idea to utilize the services of an experienced estate planning attorney to draft your documents. Even if you just want to ensure your child inherits your estate, it can be beneficial to consult an attorney to better understand all the tools and methods available. It also ensures your estate avoids probate, reduces any inheritance taxes and provides a smooth execution of your estate plan.

Source: Observor & Eccentric, "Advice on disinheriting a child," Rick Bloom, Mar. 11, 2012

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