There are a number of reasons why an individual would disinherit a family member, and while the reasons may be justified, we find that the person being disinherited often feels as though the decision was wrongly applied. With that in mind, today we'll discuss X things you should know about disinheritance in North Carolina.
What does it mean to be disinherited?
Disinheritance in North Carolina is defined as the manner in which a family member who might have received a gift from a parent or elder's estate is left with nothing. This commonly occurs when a parent chooses to leave one of their adult children out of the will, with or without reason.
What reasons would cause you to disinherit someone?
We've heard a number of thoughtfully-considered reasons to disinherit a family member. The most common reasons for disinheritance in North Carolina include:
Lack of Relationship
If a parent no longer has a relationship with one of their children, it's common for that parent to disinherit that child from the will or trust. This includes situations of abandonment, as well as situations in which the child has chosen to discontinue their relationship with a parent for any reason. We'll discuss more about reasons a child might disinherit a parent versus a parent disinheriting a child (and other scenarios) in a future article, but it is fully within the parent's right to disinherit a child. If the child feels as though they were wrongly disinherited, they can consult with a trust litigation or probate litigation attorney.
Previous Inheritance Distribution
If the parent feels as though they've already given a generous amount to the individual during their lifetime, they may want to leave the remainder of their estate to other members of the family in an effort to balance out their gift-giving.
The parent will legally disinherit the child so that they can equally distribute the remainder of their estate between their children. If this describes your situation, you may want to work with an estate planning attorney in Raleigh, NC to create an estate plan that addresses your specific needs. Your estate planning attorney can help you create a plan to start distributing your children's inheritance while you're still living. They can then help you go through the process of disinheritance.
That said, we find that when a parent disinherits their child for this reason, that the child will often challenge the disinheritance. You can protect yourself by creating an airtight estate plan.
Disagreement Over Lifestyle Choices
We actually see this particular reason more often than we care to admit. In this case, the parent feels as though their child has made poor life choices (example: drug abuse) or doesn't agree with their lifestyle choices (child comes out as a member of the LBGTQ+ community). As such, they don't want any amount of inheritance towards those lifestyle choices and choose to disinherit the child. It's certainly within the parent's legal rights to do so, but the child can also contest the decision.
Finally, in situations where a couple has gotten divorced, it is quite common for ex-spouses to legally disinherit each other from their respective will or trust to insure that the other person doesn't receive any inheritance upon death.
Are there legal grounds that would prevent someone from disinheriting someone from a family trust or will?
A parent can choose to disinherit any child, beneficiary, or heir for any reason, regardless of whether or not the individual being disinherited agrees with that decision, as long as the person is of sound body and mind, with one exception. Some states have "forced inheritance" laws that prevent a person from completely disinheriting their children and/or spouse.
North Carolina is not one of those states, however, if there is no will to direct the distribution of assets, then any property of the deceased’s estate is then distributed according to North Carolina's Intestate Succession Act. We'll talk more about this act in another article.
HIRE AN ESTATE ATTORNEY IN RALEIGH TO AVOID ESTATE PLANNING DISPUTES
We encourage you to seek the counsel of a qualified estate attorney in Raleigh to guide you through the process of distributing assets of an estate. If steps are not taken before the death of a parent, there are still several strategies we can use to minimize conflict. Contact our legal team for more information.