We hear about it in the news, someone famous has disinherited a family member, or even more exciting, the whole family! Sometimes we even hear from the disgruntled “non-beneficiary” with an explanation or a tell-all critique of the person who did the disinheriting. But we rarely hear about it with the perspective that Mary Beth Caschetta shared in her New York Times article, What Wasn’t Passed On.
When conversations with clients cover the topic of disinheritance, I must remain neutral and cannot share my opinion. My role is to ensure that the client’s wishes are carried out, not to instruct them on making the right decision. Yet, it is also my job to ask the right questions. So, while it is absolutely the client’s decision, I often ask about the client’s reasoning.
Sometimes the client’s intent is to share certain sentiments with the disinherited family member. Other times, the client simply wants to give assets to other people or organizations. If the client is sending a post-mortem message, I explain that the client should be clear and concise in the Will but that he or she may share more extensive explanations in a letter to be delivered after his or her death.
In some situations, the client may want to communicate his or her message before death. Depending upon the client’s circumstances, an explanatory letter (along with a properly drafted will) may reduce the likelihood of a Will contest. As in Ms. Caschetta’s experience, I believe that a letter explaining the “why” of a disinheritance could clear up some confusion that remains after an individual’s death. Regardless of how you feel about disinheriting someone, read Ms. Caschetta’s story for a different view of what it is like to be disinherited.