There are a number of reasons not to leave anything in your will to your children or a specific child. Perhaps your children are well off and you do not think that they need it. Maybe you do not believe that they could handle having a large influx of assets or maybe they have a history of mismanaging their financials. Whatever the reason, your will is your will; it is a reflection of your last wishes and you would like to those wishes to be respected. But in California, if your will is not properly drafted, your wishes may be disregarded by the probate court.
If you are intending to disinherit a child, California Probate Code requires that you have very specific wording in your testamentary instruments like a will for a child born after the execution of your will. If you do not provide for your son or daughter in your will, it is assumed that you mistakenly failed to include them. When this happens, your child or children can elect to take a portion of your estate, even if you did not want them to.
In order to avoid this unintended outcome, you must make it clear in your estate planning documents that you explicitly did not want to leave anything to a child or your children. It is not enough to simply omit them from inheriting. This is especially important to remember if you have more children or adopt after the execution of your will or other estate planning documents. Always be sure to mention all your children in a will, even if it is to specifically disinherit them.
If you do not mention your children in your will specifically, it may be possible still to avoid having them take an election from your assets. By providing for your children in a trust, designating your child as a beneficiary to life insurance policies, annuities, retirement plans, bank account or by titling assets with your child in joint tenancy, you can show that you provided for your children outside of your will. California also assumes that if you leave the majority or substantial amount of your assets to the parent of your children that the parent will use those assets to take care of your children.
The safest way to insure that your wishes are respected after your death is to consult with a California estate planning attorney. The office of Charles D. Stark can help you plan your estate and make sure that your assets go to where you want them to. Contact us at (707) 527-9900 or visit us online.