Express Disinheritance Explained: Play it Safe

When it comes to estate planning in the state of Florida, the best way to handle disinheritance of estranged family members is to omit references to them from your will and trust documents entirely.

The big picture:

Any party named in a will or trust is generally considered by Florida probate judges to be an “interested party” by law, requiring notice to be served to them upon the initiation of a probate case.

  • An “interested party” is any person who “may reasonably be expected to be affected by the outcome of the proceeding,” and disinheriting an individual affects them in that they will receive nothing from the proceeds of a probate administration.
  • This notice requirement extends to individuals expressly disinherited in the text or a will or trust, because they are still named in the document, even if they receive nothing.
  • Being named an interested party in this manner allows for the will or trust to be challenged, a likely occurrence if someone is being expressly disinherited.

Why it matters:

Challenges to a will or trust extend the duration of a probate matter, resulting in higher costs of administration to be paid out by the estate, and can cause strife between family members as evidence is introduced by the challenging party.

  • Probate matters are generally funded by the estate, and the longer administration takes, the more fees will rack up for court costs and the personal representative’s service, leaving less for the beneficiaries.
  • A family member challenging a will or trust will result in the court investigating and examining all communications between beneficiaries of the estate to determine the veracity of the challenge, potentially exposing sensitive conversations.

The solution:

By not naming a party to be disinherited in a will or trust at all, they will have no avenue to challenging the probate proceedings, as they will not be considered an interested party.

  • Florida law stipulates only that spouses and minor children are required to be supported by the proceeds of an estate, allowing any other party to be included or omitted based on the deceased party’s preference.
Michael Faehner

Michael J. Faehner

Michael J. Faehner is the founder of Faehner PLLC in Oldsmar, Florida. Michael focuses his practice on estate planning, corporate,…

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