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Estranged Children & Estate Planning: What You Need to Know

Are you estranged from one or more of your children? Do you need to know what this can mean when it comes to your Estate Plan? Keep reading to find out.

Are you estranged from one or more of your children? Do you need to know what this can mean when it comes to your Estate Plan? Keep reading to find out. 

The topic of an estranged child can be difficult to talk about. And sometimes Estate Planning can be hard to face. When you put the two of them together, it may be something you’d prefer not to think about. But the fact of the matter is, taking the steps to make an Estate Plan when your children are estranged can give you some much-needed peace of mind. 

Sometimes, it’s easier to remember when your children were little and all at home. You knew where they were, and your rules were the rules. But when they grow up, things can be different. Not all families are able to maintain a close relationship, and sometimes parents and children become estranged from one another. 

Estrangement can be temporary, or it can be a long-term thing. Its ramifications can be felt throughout many areas of your life, but there’s one aspect of child estrangement you should consider today: what it means when Estate Planning. 

Child Estrangement – What It Means

Estrangement between a parent and an adult child usually happens when the child cuts the parent out of their life (though the parent sometimes may be the one to cut ties with their grown child.) Estrangement is a total lack of contact between the parent and child. It can last years, sometimes ending in reconciliation and sometimes continuing until the end of the parent or child’s life. 

There are complex factors in any relationship, and an estranged relationship between a parent and an adult child is no different. Both sides may have their own view of the past, their own feelings about needs and obligations, and their own way of communicating those feelings. 

If you get into a disagreement with your adult son or daughter, but the two of you continue to talk and be involved in each other’s lives, even if only periodically, that’s not estrangement. Not talking for a few days or weeks wouldn’t usually constitute estrangement. If one of you discontinues all communication, however, and this goes on for a length of time, you would consider the relationship to be estranged. Basically, you know if you have an estranged child. But what does it mean when it comes to a Will and Trust? 

Estranged Children and Estate Planning

Making an Estate Plan is a personal process. It requires you to take stock of everything you have, then decide what you want to have happen to it all, after you are gone. It means you’ll need to think of who will be there to make decisions about your health, your bills, and your last wishes if you aren’t able to. It can be emotional and – if child estrangement is involved – even more so. 

But making an Estate Plan puts your wishes into legal documents that ensure they will be carried out. If you have one or more estranged children, some of the things you’ll want to think about when considering online Estate Planning include: 

Are you obligated to leave an estranged child anything? 

As long as you are deemed competent at the time you make a Will and/or Trust, and as long as you are the owner of the property and assets, it is up to you to determine what you want to do with your assets. Unless your children are minors or otherwise legally dependent on you, you aren’t required to leave them your assets or support them in any way.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t leave them anything if you wish to do so. It just means that an adult child doesn’t have legal claim to your property or other assets unless you leave it to them in a Will or a Trust. 

Let’s look at an example. Mr. Smith has two grown children. He lives near his daughter and visits twice a week. He hasn’t spoken to his son since he left home at eighteen. He makes a Will and decides to leave his house to his daughter alone. Mr. Jones also has two grown children. He talks to his son three times a week and visits twice a year. He no longer speaks with his daughter. He has a large amount of money in his bank account and makes a Will which says he wants the money split equally between both of his children when he dies. 

Both scenarios are valid, and legal, based on the wishes of the Grantor. When deciding how to handle your Estate, you’ll want to take your own feelings into consideration and create a customized Estate Plan online. 

Wills, Trusts, and Your Adult Children

Because your situation is unique to your family, you’ll want to think about whether you need to make a Will, a Trust, both, and consider who will be the executor and beneficiaries of your Estate. Being knowledgeable of the numerous Estate Planning terms can help make the process less confusing. Below, are some terms you may want to familiarize yourself with before getting started on drafting your Estate Plan:

  • Will – This is a legal document where you’ll give information on who can make your medical and financial decisions if you’re incapacitated (your Power of Attorney), who you leave your property to, and other wishes you want carried out.  

  • Trust – This document allows you (as Trustor) to transfer assets to another person or several people (the Trustee or Trustees) as you see fit. A Trust can be created to transfer real estate, money, and other assets and valuables. Trusts can be set up to dictate when and how a Trustee receives an asset. 

  • Executor – This is a person designated by you to distribute your assets according to your will. If you have an estranged child, the Executor would be the one to get in touch with them regarding your Will or Trust. If an Executor is needed but not named in the Will, a court will appoint one.  

  • Beneficiaries – These are the people you’ll leave your assets and valuables to. It can be one person, several people, or as many as you name. 

  • Contesting a Will -- An estranged child who feels they’ve been cut out of a Will may dispute (or contest) the Will. They may try to claim the estrangement was untrue or unfounded. Making your wishes clear and specific in the appropriate legal documents, such as your Will, can minimize uncertainty and make it less probable that an estranged child can contest a Will. 

  • State-Specific Laws and Other Concerns - There may be specific laws and rules in your state regarding inheritance, taxes, and property. Talking to an Expert Estate Planning Attorney can help you get the answers you’re looking for and can help your beneficiaries avoid problems with your Estate in the future. 

How to Make the Right Decisions for Yourself

Are you ready to make your Will or set up a Trust? Do you need to update your existing Estate Plan? We can help you! At Trust & Will, we make it easy to get your Estate Planning done no matter the circumstance. Reach out to us today and tell us what you need to get your Will or Trust completed online.