Troubleshooting Legal Problems

Can you choose to fully or partially disinherit family members?

When you die, the inheritance that you leave behind for your family members will strongly influence how they remember you. Most people want to leave behind resources to reward loved ones and ensure their bright futures. 

Others may have to consider whether a family member might abuse those resources. If you have a spouse with a compulsive shopping habit or a child with a history of addiction, can you disinherit them under Pennsylvania law? 

You can disinherit or partially disinherit children

Children only have a statutory right to inherit from a parent’s estate if that parent dies without a will. If you create an estate plan, your wishes will supersede state law for the division of your property. You can do this to disinherit one or all of your children. 

You can also partially disinherit one child by giving them less than their siblings. Including a no-contest clause can help reduce the likelihood of a challenge against your estate for these potentially controversial decisions. 

Disinheriting a spouse is a different matter

You and your spouse share finances and a household, so your spouse has a statutory right to inherit from your estate. If you attempt to disinherit them with a will, the state allows them to claim an elective inheritance that will be a portion of the estate’s value. 

Some people will use a trust as a workaround to minimize what their spouse receives from their estate, but even this might not entirely succeed in Pennsylvania. Familiarizing yourself with probate laws can help you create a reasonable and enforceable estate plan.