Michael Jackson’s father, Joseph Jackson, was left out of his famous son’s will. The pop singer’s father contested the validity of the will, which named Michael Jackson’s mother and his three children as the primary beneficiaries. After years of legal battles, a Los Angeles court ruled that Joseph Jackson had no legal standing in matters related to the singer’s estate.
Disinheriting family members is legal, but one should be aware that it can cause a great deal of difficulty, legal and otherwise, for the disinherited as well as for family members who remain beneficiaries.
Disinheritance often results from a parent’s falling out with an adult child, as was the case with Michael Jackson and his father. In other situations, a parent may feel that a child who has had significant financial success may not need as much inheritance as other children who have not fared as well.
Many estate planning professionals caution against disinheriting a child, no matter the reason.
Remember, directions left in a last will and testament are your final directive. As testator, you will not be around to explain yourself, and there is no opportunity for reconciliation.
Additionally, other beneficiaries, whether they are siblings of the disinherited individual, uncles or other family members, will benefit and will be left in the awkward position of defending the wishes of the testator. That can create tension and hard feelings that can rest for their lifetimes.
One option to disinheriting a family member is providing specific instructions regarding how the inheritance be used, such as funding grandchildren’s college tuition. A knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can offer suggestions and tools for providing more specificity on how an inheritance should be used.
In general, however, a will should be an expression of love, not a means of settling a score.