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Can a California parent disinherit a child?

The short answer is "Yes," although the emotional response is usually "Why would you do that?" Los Angeles attorneys know that no two estate plans or plan creators are exactly alike. Individual personalities, family disputes and relationship dynamics color the content of wills, trusts and other estate documents.

Legitimate reasons exist for a parent to disinherit a child. A common belief is that children cannot be excluded from a parent's estate. That is often, but not always, the case when a person dies without a will in place. The intention to disinherit a child must be included in a decedent's estate plan.

Intestate succession laws in California are designed to give probate judges guidance when deciding how estate assets are divided. The laws are enforced when an individual dies without a will or with an invalid will. Spouses and domestic partners are first in line to inherit property followed by children and parents.

Legal connections and bloodlines define children with inheritance rights. A natural or adopted child has property rights that stepchildren or foster children do not.

Keep in mind intestacy statutes apply when no outline of asset distribution exists. An individual with an indisputable will may disinherit a child.

No law requires a parent to pass property to a child. Simply dropping a name from a will opens the door for a court to conclude that the decedent made a mistake. A will should state exact intentions including whether an heir will or will not receive property.

Child disinheritance may stem from a strained or estranged relationship, but sometimes a parent feels one child requires resources that another child does not. A child's medical needs, employment or relationship status and overall financial situation affect this decision.

Estate planning lawyers realize most parents want children to share in their estate wealth. Parents who make alternate choices must create transparent estate plans that cannot be misinterpreted.

Source:  hometownlife.com, "Clearing up confusion regarding children/stepchildren" Rick Bloom, May. 05, 2013

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