Category: Family

Dad Left Me Out of His Will… What Can I Do?

MP900430489A father remarries and has kids with his new wife. He has one child from his first marriage. When he falls ill, his second wife changes his will and leaves the kid from the first marriage out. What can the child do?

Children don't have the right to inherit, and a father has every right to leave his kid or kids out of his will, says the article, "Your parent left you out of their will: What now?" from New Jersey 101.5.

If the father is competent and not being unduly influenced by his current wife, he can decide to leave out the child from his first marriage. A husband frequently leaves everything to a spouse, even if it's a second marriage.

In some instances, a father may feel he's being fair by leaving a child out of his will. It could be that the child from his first marriage is significantly older than the children from his second marriage. Perhaps he paid for the education of that older child or even put a down payment on the first home of that child. In light of this, the father may believe he must leave the rest of his estate to his other younger children in order to put them in the same position as his first child. Or maybe the father feels comfortable that his oldest child is successful in life and that his half-siblings are more needy. Another scenario might be that the father provided for the child from his first marriage in some other manner, such as by naming him as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, IRA, or other payable on death account that does not pass under the will.

Otherwise, if the father is competent, there is little a disinherited child can do. Upon the father's death, a child could contest the will, claiming undue influence by his new wife.

Reference: New Jersey 101.5 (November 19, 2015) "Your parent left you out of their will: What now?"

How to Slice Your Pie of Assets into Unequal Slices That Your Kids will Enjoy

Bigstock-Family-Portrait-At-Christmas-4881212When the time comes to write a will, the Boston Globe says that many parents opt to divide their wealth equally. The article “An unequal sharing of the wealth,” explains that they respond based on a sense of fairness or a desire to preserve family harmony. However, in the past two decades, those who leave unequal amounts to children have more than doubled.

A study published last month by the National Bureau of Economic Research revealed that the share of parents with wills that give unequal amounts to their children grew significantly between 1995 and 2010—from 16% to 35%. One important element of this increase is the growing number of “complex” families, or blended households with stepchildren and biological children, as well as families where a parent doesn’t have any contact with one or more biological children (e.g., children from a previous relationship).

Among parents who had created a will, 61% of those with stepchildren and biological children planned to divide their assets unequally, compared with 27% of parents with just biological children. Among parents who were divorced at the time they were surveyed, the difference was even greater: 75% compared to 29%. However, researchers noted that living with a stepparent for at least 7 to 10 years eliminated the stepchild “penalty.”

The study concentrated primarily on complex families, but there are other scenarios in which parents might choose to pass on their wealth unequally. Parents may have given more to one child in the past and decide to leave more to their other children. Or, they may want to split assets unevenly to try to put their kids on more equal footing. Parents may have the best of intentions in making these decisions, but they should speak to their children to prevent hurt feelings.

An estate planning attorney can provide valuable guidance.

Reference: The Boston Globe (November 16, 2015) “An unequal sharing of the wealth”