How To Disinherit Someone: Is The $1 Story True?

A claim that occasionally travels around, either through word-of-mouth or social media, is that the way to disinherit someone and make sure they can't win any of your estate is to mention them specifically in your will and leave them a specific small amount, such as $1. This makes sense at first, but when you look at how the current estate-planning field works, it's not completely accurate. Before you rely on a social media post for estate-planning advice, speak with an actual estate-planning attorney because you don't have to send money to anyone you disinherit.

The Story Behind Leaving Someone a Dollar

The claim is based on other, varying claims that women a couple of centuries ago who wanted to disinherit a son or other male relative often had their wills invalidated or changed by a court because the male relative had sued, claiming that the woman had merely forgotten to mention him. The workaround was to state that the person in question would receive only X amount (which was very small) and no more, signaling to the court that the woman most definitely meant to exclude the man from inheriting anything else. This has transformed into leaving $1 to anyone you don't want claiming a piece of your estate to ensure they can't claim you forgot.

It's True That You Shouldn't Ignore the Person Completely

While leaving someone $1 with the instruction not to give that person anything else will make your wishes clear, the amount you leave them isn't what matters. You can just state, very clearly, that X person is disinherited and is not to receive anything from your estate or any related sources. An estate-planning attorney can help you with the exact wording.

Your Will Can Still Be Challenged No Matter What You Do

The bad news is that, no matter what you put in your will, someone can still challenge it. They have that right no matter what you think of them. And it's not always a guarantee that their suit won't result in an award or settlement for them. Sometimes the people or organizations being sued simply don't want to deal with a lawsuit, so they arrange for a settlement; other times, the court may decide that the person suing has a case for demanding part of the estate. But this does not mean you should assume you can't disinherit someone. Again, stating your wishes clearly, that this person should not benefit, will go a long way toward ensuring what you want comes to pass.

The best thing you can do, if you're worried about preventing someone from inheriting from your estate, is to meet with an estate-planning attorney. This attorney can help you create a will, and living trust if needed, that will exclude this person to the best of the law's ability.

Contact a local estate planning attorney to learn more.