How to cut someone out of your will: A guide to disinheritance

In Drafting a will

If you’ve fallen out with a friend or family member, you may be considering disinheriting them. Cutting someone out of your will is a serious step, and you’ll want to approach this with compassion and a level head.

Explore your options for leaving someone out of your will.
 

Preparing to remove someone from your will

You’re completely within your rights to exclude someone from your will. You’re free to do so for any reason at all, or no reason whatsoever.

However, before you make your final decision:

Take your time – disinheriting someone has consequences. Be 100% sure of your decision.

Talk in advance – rather than letting the news come as a shock, speak to the person or people involved. You may choose not to proceed, or it may make them less likely to contest your will later.

Speak to a legal expert – if possible, make sure ahead of time that your decision is legally and financially sound. You may be unable to disinherit someone if they’re already entitled, such as a part-owned home or business.

Problems may arise after you’ve passed, when a disinherited person could potentially challenge the contents on of your will. However, not everyone can contest a will. In England and Wales, the person must be either:
  • Your spouse, civil partner, or cohabiting partner
  • Your former spouse or civil partner, if neither remarried
  • Your children, step-children, foster children, and any child who was treated as yours
  • Anyone financially dependent on you
  • Anyone living with you for two years until your death

Your extended family aren’t entitled to receive anything unless you don’t have a will and don’t name a beneficiary – at which point, they could make a claim for all or part of your estate.

So, you can’t stop someone challenging your will. But you can take several steps to ensure your final wishes are carried out.
 

How to help prevent a challenge to your will after disinheritance

  • Start afresh

If you’ve already written a will that includes someone you wish to remove, don’t add a codicil (an addition to your will written as a separate document) – write a new will. It’ll stop the document becoming too complicated and open to a challenge. It also means you can more accurately outline your current wishes. While rare, it’s also possible for codicils to get lost, meaning someone you cut out could end up inheriting.
 
 
  • Properly written and worded

As a legal document, your will should be as clear and unambiguous as possible. A will-writer or solicitor will make sure that everything is correctly written, including a statement naming the excluded person, to show this was intentional, not accidental.
 
 
  • Offer a token gift

To make it clear you haven’t forgotten someone from your will, you may find it best to name them as a beneficiary of a token gift, such as a small amount of money. This will make it far harder for them to later claim you accidentally left them out. You might also add a proviso that they may only inherit this gift if they do not contest your will. A legal expert will advise.
 
 
  • Include a ‘Letter of Wishes’

A Letter of Wishes is a non-binding document designed to make your decisions clearer. Often, it’s used to dictate the type of funeral you want, determining who gets small personal possessions, and listing assets like bank accounts to make it easier to distribute your estate. You should also use a Letter of Wishes to explain why you’ve made certain decisions in your will, including reasons for disinheriting a friend or relative. This letter should be lodged alongside your will.
 
 
  • Talk to a doctor

If you’re concerned that a challenge to your will may centre around the state of your health, you should see if your doctor is willing to write a statement confirming that you’re ‘of sound mind’. In other words, you’re backing up the assertion that you know what you’re doing and understand the consequences of cutting someone out. You could also ask your doctor to witness the signing of your will. Should a challenge arise, they will again be asked to confirm you were ‘of sound mind’.
 
 

Write the will you want

Your will is a deeply personal document – so, make sure it fully reflects and respects your wishes with The Law Superstore.

Whether you own a complex estate or just a few bits and bobs, we’ll help you compare prices for will-writers and solicitors near you who will make your will your own.
 
 

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