Being Disinherited Is A Spectrum
There is a common misconception that disinheritance indicates that a person is removed from their inheritance fully. However, being disinherited is a spectrum; it can range from full disinheritance to partial disinheritance.
Partial disinheritance is when the Settlor revokes a portion of a beneficiary’s assets. Typically this involves a reallocation of asset distribution in some way. When someone is partially disinherited, their portion of the estate is reduced from the portion they were originally granted in the prior estate document. Some examples of partial disinheritance include:
- reallocating equal asset distribution to varying distributions (sometimes this can result in a beneficiary receiving a majority of the assets)
- losing rights to a specific high-value asset. (ex. property)
- a beneficiary’s portion being reduced to a trivial amount
Settlors can leave assets to whomever they choose in any manner they choose, even if it does not coincide with the expectations of friends or family. Comparatively, a Settlor also reserves the right to amend or revoke (presuming the document is not irrevocable) their Will or Trust for any reason and in any manner they see fit. Essentially, this means that heirs at law are not guaranteed an inheritance if the estate document states otherwise.
However, disinheritance is not always a result of the Settlor’s own accord; commonly in this practice area, we see people unlawfully disinherited, whether by undue influence or other kinds of fraud. In such events, legal remedies like Trust and Will contests are available. If a Trust and Will contest is successful, it will invalidate the challenged estate document and restore the original estate plan.
Trust and Will contests cannot be brought simply because an amended estate plain is unfair or shocking; it is a legal remedy to rectify some form of wrongdoing in the estate plan. For this reason, cogent evidence of undue influence, lack of capacity, or fraud is requisite. In the absence of such proof, a court will presume the estate document is valid and accurately depicts the Settlor’s wishes.
In some situations, there may be a No Contest Clause, which can bar an heir from pursuing a Trust and Will contest. A No Contest Clause is a provision in an estate document that states that any beneficiary or heir who attempts to challenge the document will be automatically disinherited. An heir, even in the event of a No Contest Clause, can still pursue a contest, however, if it is unsuccessful, a court will most likely enforce the clause. A No Contest Clause results in a full disinheritance. So if someone is partially disinherited and is contesting with a No Contest provision in place, they will be fully disinherited if the contest is unsuccessful.
If you are in a similar predicament or want to know your legal options for your inheritance, please contact The Inheritance Recovery Attorneys. Our firm offers free consultations and specializes in Trust and Will litigation. We are here to help you protect your inheritance and ensure your loved one’s wishes are fulfilled honestly.