It isn’t often that pop culture focuses on estate planning, and what movies include is often inaccurate or misleading. Many viewers watching Taylor Swift’s recent music video might chuckle at the extended scene involving a family altercation as they read her will. Her two imaginary children react in horror as they realize she has only left them $0.13 in her will, and the scene devolves into a dramatic fight.
While some people may look for the symbolic meaning behind that move, it is actually a savvy estate planning strategy utilized by those in high-conflict family situations. Leaving a small inheritance is often a successful means of disinheriting someone who lacks a statutory right to an inheritance.
Disinheriting people can be difficult
Children with wealthy parents and other family members with significant resources feel a sense of entitlement. They think that they should receive certain assets from the estate by virtue of their legal or biological connection with the testator, regardless of the actual state of their relationship.
If someone with a sizable estate decides to disinherit their children, they typically need to do so directly in their documents. The choice to not include certain family members as beneficiaries isn’t always enough. Children and other close relatives could challenge the estate plan in probate court in such a scenario, possibly by making a claim that the testator accidentally forgot them.
By leaving a specific, small amount to certain family members, those who want to prevent probate challenges and effectively disinherit certain family members can achieve both goals simultaneously.
How else can you limit people’s inheritance?
Other than explicitly stating that you disinherited someone in your will or leaving them a very small amount of money or a single physical object, you might also consider adding a trust to your estate plan. Trusts retain control over your property and can be a powerful way to limit what assets pass through probate and would therefore be subject to claims by family members.
Identifying your personal estate planning goals can help you employ the right tactics to achieve your wishes after your death.