I often get calls from indignant clients telling me their recently-departed parent or other family member has disinherited them, and they want to know their options. And while proving a Will that disinherits someone is never a foregone conclusion, they are usually walking up to home plate with two strikes against them.
And many times, this was unexpected: The client had no clue why they were cut out of the decedent’s estate. From my experience, it is likely due to one of the following misperceptions you had:
- You did not give them enough attention.
Face it: Spending time with elderly and sick people is not usually our go-to option for a Friday night. It can be very hard for any of us to turn a frown upside down during such trivial events as having no almond milk to add to our Grande Americano, so imaging instead that you have cancer or Parkinson’s or are in your mid-90s in a wheelchair. The sick and elderly want to be happy and accepted, and you likely avoided them, so they didn’t get in the way of your “good times.” In the meantime, the family member has plenty of time to meet with their attorney, who remind them they can leave money to whomever they want when they die. Yes, perhaps their expectations for seeing you twice a week were unreasonable, but the financial consequences get real when a person feels ignored. Spend adequate time with your aging and sick family members.
- At some point, you referred to “their” money as “our” money.
This just happened the other day: A couple met with me and their son, who referred to the parent’s investments as “our money.” WELL, once he left the room that misperception was quickly dispelled by the parents. Do NOT think you are entitled to your parent’s money, and if you can’t help but feel that way, just keep your mouth shut! Let your family member know you respect their decisions with the money they accumulated, and they will likely be willing to make provisions for you in the future.
- They felt you did not respect their life decisions.
Sometimes family members remarry, sometimes they find (or lose) religion, sometimes they change sexual orientation. When you make your disapproval of an adult’s decision known you are playing with financial fire. If you have convinced yourself that it was your “job as a family member” to “tell them some hard truths about their decisions in life”, get ready for an equally hard truth when Aunt Mildred’s Will calls you a self-righteous schwantz and disinherits you. Be respectful of a person’s lifestyle, even if you disapprove.
- They did not trust you with money.
Lastly, maybe your family member didn’t trust you with money. Was it your weekend drugging-and-gambling binges? Or your $200,000 in credit card debt? Do you too uncontrollably spend your last cent on every new Chia Pet model? I have had families leave all their money to one or two children and trust those children to dole-out funds to the others as they deem fit. And that sucks for everyone, but if this article has taught you anything it is that you were disinherited due to something that YOU did, not your recently-departed family member. Get your finances in order, get a job and move out of mom’s basement, or risk having your older brother lecture you for the rest of your life as you beg him for some of mom’s money.