How to disinherit someone.

I’ve discussed this before; but I think the point needs repeating. With the exception of a spouse, and minor children, Florida doesn’t place any limitations on who you can disinherit. The exception for spouses falls into two categories; under most circumstances you can’t disinherit the spouse from receiving your homestead, and while Florida law allows you to disinherit a spouse from all other assets, Florida allows the spouse an “Elective Share” of 30% of the gross estate, subject to some setoffs for property they receive outside of probate. And if you have minor children, you usually can’t disinherit them from receiving the homestead. Other than that, though, normally you are not obligated to leave anyone anything, you can freely disinherit children, step children, siblings, parents, whoever.
You are not obligated to leave most people anything, including “A dollar”. And, in fact, if you want to disinherit someone, you are better off leaving them nothing, and not “A Dollar”. The reason for this is that if you do leave them a dollar in the will, they become an ‘interested party’ under Florida law; they are entitled to notice of the probate and they may be in a position to at least slow things down, by refusing to sign consents, receipts and waivers.
If you want to cut someone out of a will, the better practice is to mention them by name, and then explicitly state that you are not leaving them anything. Typically I use language to the effect of “I leave X nothing under this will but leave him my love and affection”.
The reason for this is if you simply fail to mention the person, there is a chance that they could use this to challenge the will; the basic premise would be that the parent was so senile, or so far gone mentally, that he forgot that he had a particular child or relative; I’m not suggesting that this would necessarily be a strong case, but it could slow things down, take time and money to resolve. By specifically naming them, and then explicitly stating that you leave them nothing, it shows that you knew what you were doing.
And, you shouldn’t discuss the reasons for why you are cutting them out in the will, such as “My son stole from me and I leave him nothing”. This could lead to two problems; first, there is a type of lawsuit called “testamentary libel”, where someone who is slandered in a will can sue the estate; obviously, lawsuits are going to slow down the probate and cost money to defend, even if the person cut out of the will doesn’t win the suit. And, you run the risk of opening the door to probate litigation; to use the example above, that “my son stole from me”, the son may be tempted to try to overturn the will on the basis that he hadn’t stolen from you; that you were either under some sort of delusion, mistake of fact, or that someone else poisoned your mind against him by telling lies. Once again, this could take time and money to fight.
If you insist on leaving a nominal amount, I would suggest that you leave enough to encourage them to sign off on paperwork; maybe $1000 or so; while that is not a fortune, it is enough that most people are going to be willing to sign paperwork and follow through on cashing a check. Nobody is going to cooperate to receive $1; most people will cooperate, even if grudgingly, to receive $1000.

If you want to disinherit someone, I strongly suggest you talk to an attorney; If you are in The Villages, Florida and need estate planning, please feel free to call my office and schedule an appointment.

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