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Estranged children in estate planning: options and best practices

On Behalf of | Aug 20, 2021 | Estate Planning

While estate planning can be straightforward for some families, others have complexities to face when it comes to dividing assets amongst those left behind. One of the issues that can make estate planning difficult is a strained relationship with a child or children. Estate planning is a personal matter, and there are not necessarily “right” or “wrong” ways to deal with such issues. However, it can help for Georgia parents to know all possible options when determining how to manage an estranged child in estate planning.

Three of the most common ways parents respond to estranged children in their estate plans are as follows:

  • Leaving a straightforward gift: Often, parents will leave children a certain percentage of their estate. However, if one of the children is estranged, it may make more sense to leave a lump sum to that child and split the remainder amongst other beneficiaries using the percentage system. If the child’s relationship with other beneficiaries is also strained, this can be a good way to simplify their portion of the estate without them needing to involve themselves in probate and executorship issues.
  • Using a testamentary trust: Trusts are a good option for parents who would prefer to restrict how their assets are spent by the child who receives it. This is also a good option for those who are concerned about assets falling into the hands of their child’s spouse, as money in a trust can be more clearly separate and protected from issues like divorce.
  • Disinheriting: Parents who choose to disinherit one or more children need to be very careful to spell out their intentions clearly in a will, as disinheritances can often be points of contention in estate administration. It is also important to discuss whether the child alone will be disinherited or if the disinheritance includes their children. In some cases, parents will choose to leave money to their grandchildren rather than children for this reason.

When choosing any of these options, it is often a good idea to explain the intentions for the decision to the child in question. This can be done through a letter left with the estate plan. Choosing any one of these options may also require certain additional legal steps, so it’s important to discuss the intended course of action with a Georgia estate planning attorney.

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