Are you considering leaving one – or all – of your children out of your will? Or have you discovered one or both of your parents have disinherited you, due to a family rift or reasons known only to them? You may be wondering about the legality of disinheritances here in Tennessee, and what can or can’t be contested. Following is some information you may find helpful regarding wills and inheritances.

The short answer to, “Can parents disinherit their children?” is yes. However, a parent should specifically exclude the child or children they want to disinherit in their will, so the court does not assume a child was unintentionally left out. A surviving spouse cannot be disinherited.

Reasons people disinherit their children

In the majority of cases where a parent disinherits a child, something has gone awry in their relationship. Parents typically disinherit adult children, as it’s nearly impossible in any state to disinherit a minor child. This is why we recommend, if you’ve chosen to do so, you revisit this decision often in case your relationship has since been repaired.

Disinheriting a child is not a decision to be taken lightly. For some, it can be a final message from a parent to their children. Some of the common reasons disinheritances occur include:

  • Estrangement between child and parent
  • Child’s substance abuse or addiction
  • Child’s history of financial irresponsibility
  • Child is more financially successful than the other children
  • To prevent a disabled child from losing government benefits

Sometimes, disinheritance is an extreme step that may not be necessary. You may wish to speak to a wills and probate attorney about other options, including setting up trusts with a designated trustee and strict requirements on when and how to disperse money and assets. If you have decided to disinherit one or more of your children, it may be wise to inform them in advance to avoid family infighting and costly court battles down the line. It’s also important to have your lawyer check all your estate documents and beneficiaries to ensure they also match up with your inheritance wishes.

Contesting a will when you’ve been disinherited

If you believe you’re rightfully owed an inheritance, you may be able to contest a will. To contest a will in Tennessee, you must have “standing,” which means you would be affected by the terms of the will in question. In cases of disinheritance, you likely have standing. In Tennessee, you have two years from the time the will is entered into probate to challenge the will.

The primary and legitimate reasons you may contest a will include:

  • Forgery or fraud
  • Improper execution of the will
  • Lack of mental capacity
  • Undue influence

If you have a contested will or estate plan that may require mediation or litigation, seeking counsel now instead of later can save you valuable time, money and headaches.

Ensure the validity of your estate plan by working with experienced will and probate attorneys who can give you the peace of mind that your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. At Wagner & Wagner, Attorneys at Law, we provide professional and quality legal services to clients throughout Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tennessee and all surrounding counties. Call us today at 423-756-7923 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.