How to Dis­in­her­it Someone?

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Catrin, UK Solicitor
10/06/2024 ● 4 minutes
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Dis­in­her­it­ance can be a tricky and emo­tion­al part of estate plan­ning. This guide breaks down what it means, how it works, and how to make sure your wishes are fol­lowed.

In­ten­tion­ally leav­ing someone out of your Will so they don’t re­ceive any part of your estate is usu­ally a last resort, but it can be ne­ces­sary for vari­ous reas­ons.

While dis­in­her­it­ing might sound straight­for­ward, there are im­port­ant legal steps to follow to ensure it's done cor­rectly.

Dis­in­her­it Mean­ing

The mean­ing of being dis­in­her­ited is that you are no longer en­titled to re­ceive any­thing from the de­ceased person’s Will.

If you’re con­sid­er­ing dis­in­her­it­ing someone, this means that you’re in­ten­tion­ally ex­clud­ing someone from your Will who might oth­er­wise expect to in­her­it from your estate. This is a very big de­cision and can have big emo­tion­al and legal im­plic­a­tions.

Who Can Be Dis­in­her­ited?

In Eng­land and Wales, you can, in most cases, dis­in­her­it almost anyone, in­clud­ing chil­dren, spouses, and other re­l­at­ives.

However, it can be chal­len­ging to dis­in­her­it someone com­pletely due to the In­her­it­ance (Pro­vi­sion for Family and De­pend­ants) Act 1975. This law allows cer­tain people to claim against your estate if they be­lieve they have not been ad­equately provided for in your Will.

Those who can make a claim in­clude spouses, civil part­ners, chil­dren, and others who were fin­an­cially de­pend­ent on you.

So, while you can tech­nic­ally dis­in­her­it someone, they may still be able to chal­lenge the Will under this Act if they can demon­strate that they have not re­ceived reas­on­able fin­an­cial pro­vi­sion.

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Common Reas­ons for Dis­in­her­it­ance

Why would you want to dis­in­her­it some­body? Al­though you can make this de­cision without any par­tic­u­lar reason, the most common are:

  • Es­trange­ment: A break­down in the re­la­tion­ship might lead you to ex­clude a family member from your Will.
  • Fin­an­cial Ir­re­spons­ib­il­ity: If a po­ten­tial be­ne­fi­ciary has a his­tory of poor fin­an­cial man­age­ment, you might choose to pro­tect your assets from being wasted.
  • Crim­in­al Be­ha­viour: To pre­vent your assets from being con­trolled by someone in­volved in il­leg­al activ­it­ies.
  • Other Reas­ons: Per­son­al values, moral be­liefs, or pre­vi­ous fin­an­cial sup­port given can also be reas­ons for dis­in­her­it­ance.

To leg­ally dis­in­her­it someone, you'll need the right doc­u­ments, which are:

  • Your Will: This is the main doc­u­ment where you clearly state who is dis­in­her­ited.
  • Co­di­cils: These are amend­ments to your ex­isting Will and can in­clude clauses about dis­in­her­it­ance. Not every­body has co­di­cils, so check whet­h­er you have any before pro­ceed­ing.
  • Trusts: These are often used along­side Wills to manage how assets are dis­trib­uted, but you may not have any.

To make dis­in­her­it­ance leg­ally bind­ing, use pre­cise word­ing in your Will. For ex­ample, say "I am in­ten­tion­ally not provid­ing for [Name] in this Will." This clar­ity helps pre­vent con­fu­sion.

While not es­sen­tial, ex­plain­ing why you're dis­in­her­it­ing someone can reduce the chance of dis­putes. You can in­clude this ex­plan­a­tion in your Will or in a sep­ar­ate doc­u­ment.

Read More: Dis­cre­tion­ary Will Trust

Chal­lenges and Dis­putes Re­garding Dis­in­her­it­ance

Keep in mind that dis­in­her­it­ing someone can lead to chal­lenges and dis­putes, par­tic­u­larly from those who feel wronged by the de­cision.

Dis­in­her­ited parties might argue that you were co­er­ced or not men­tally cap­able when making the de­cision, claim­ing undue in­flu­ence or a “lack of ca­pa­city” to make the de­cision.

They may also con­test the will based on fairness or invoke the In­her­it­ance (Pro­vi­sion for Family and De­pend­ants) Act 1975, ar­guing that they should have been provided for since they were fin­an­cially re­li­ant on you.

How to Mit­ig­ate Dis­putes

  1. De­tailed Re­cords: Keep thor­ough re­cords of your in­ter­ac­tions and de­cisions lead­ing up to the dis­in­her­it­ance. Doc­u­ment your reas­ons clearly. 
  2. For­feit­ure Clause: Also known as a no-con­test clause, this can dis­cour­age be­ne­fi­ciar­ies from con­test­ing the Will. It works by stat­ing that if a be­ne­fi­ciary chal­lenges the Will, they risk losing their in­her­it­ance. Do note that the ef­fect­ive­ness and en­force­ab­il­ity of for­feit­ure clauses can vary, and they may not fully pre­vent chal­lenges under the In­her­it­ance (Pro­vi­sion for Family and De­pend­ants) Act 1975.
  3. Com­mu­nic­ate Your Wishes: Dis­cuss your de­cisions with family mem­bers ahead of time. Clear com­mu­nic­a­tion can help manage ex­pect­a­tions and reduce sur­prises, po­ten­tially min­im­ising dis­putes.

How to Raise a Dis­pute

If you dis­cov­er that a loved one dis­in­her­ited you and you want to dis­pute this, you can do so on a lim­ited number of grounds:

  1. Lack of Test­a­ment­ary Ca­pa­city: If you be­lieve the test­ator was not of sound mind when they dis­in­her­ited you, you can chal­lenge the Will on the grounds of lack of test­a­ment­ary ca­pa­city.
  2. Undue In­flu­ence: If you think the test­ator was pres­sured or co­er­ced into making that de­cision, you can con­test the Will on the grounds of undue in­flu­ence.
  3. Fraud or For­gery: If you have evid­ence of fraud or for­gery, or if the Will does not meet the legal re­quire­ments for sign­ing and wit­ness­ing, you can chal­lenge the Will based on these grounds.
  4. In­her­it­ance (Pro­vi­sion for Family and De­pend­ants) Act 1975: Under this Act,  cer­tain people, such as spouses, civil part­ners, chil­dren, and those who were fin­an­cially de­pend­ent on the de­ceased, can claim reas­on­able fin­an­cial pro­vi­sion from the estate if they be­lieve they have not been ad­equately provided for.

Read more: In­test­acy Rules

Steps to Con­test a Will

  1. Pro­bate Re­gis­try: If the Will hasn't been pro­bated yet, you can file a caveat with the Pro­bate Re­gis­try to tem­por­ar­ily stop the pro­bate pro­cess. This gives you time to in­vest­ig­ate and decide if you want to con­test the Will.
  2. Legal As­sist­ance: If you choose to move for­ward, your so­li­citor will help you file a claim in court to chal­lenge the Will.

It’s worth noting that chal­len­ging a Will can be costly and time-con­sum­ing. If you lose the case, you might have to pay the other party’s legal costs.

If the court finds in your favour, the Will could be de­clared in­valid, and an earlier valid Will might be used in­stead. Al­tern­at­ively, the court might order that “reas­on­able pro­vi­sion” be made for you from the estate, even if the Will itself is not in­val­id­ated.

How to Dis­in­her­it Someone in the UK

De­cid­ing when and how to dis­in­her­it someone needs care­ful thought, and bal­an­cing emo­tion­al and prac­tical as­pects is im­port­ant.

Once you’ve made your de­cision, ensure your entire estate plan matches your dis­in­her­it­ance de­cisions to main­tain con­sist­ency and reduce the like­li­hood of legal chal­lenges.

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