6 Justifications for Disinheriting Someone

justifying disinheriting someone

Not all families and loved ones are as close as we want to be. Sometimes there are issues that can’t be solved, which leads to families splitting up. When that happens, you may want to change your will to not include certain people, or write your first will while making sure they’re left out. This is called disinheritance or disinheriting someone from your will. It’s not something you can do lightly. 

When you disinherit someone, you are keeping them from receiving anything from your estate after you die. This includes your monetary wealth, real estate properties, vehicles, household items, and stocks in any business you own. In most cases, if you have a spouse who will survive you, disinheritance will not be necessary since your property goes to your spouse. There are exceptions if the disinheritance is through a trust, you have a child from a previous marriage, or have non-marital property your spouse cannot receive.

If you need to disinherit someone, contact the estate planning attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam. We can help you identify if you have legal grounds or avenues to disinherit someone from your will.

Who Can You Disinherit From Your Will?

Usually, the state will abide by your will, unless given reason to think they need to interpret it. This includes family members challenging the will, new heirs, and unforeseen deaths/arrests. If you have no will, the state has laws for dividing your estate. This is called intestate succession. This is where your estate is split between several different people, usually your immediate family. If you have none, your estate will go to extended family and then the state itself.

People the state courts will look to pass your estate to include in descending order of importance:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Cousins

What Justifications are There for Disinheritance?

There are several reasons that have been used in court to justify disinheriting someone. Some are more hostile than others and require some kind of proof beyond reasoning. Each argument varies in how justifiable it is based on who is being disinherited. It’s typically easier to disinherit parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins than it is your spouse, children, or grandchildren.

Previous Recipient of Inheritance

If the person you want to disinherit has already accepted the majority of, all, or more of the amount planned for their inheritance in their adult lifetime, you can say they don’t need an inheritance. The idea is that they already received their inheritance before your passing, so they don’t need to receive anything more. If they did, it would be unfair to any other beneficiaries.

This type of disinheritance requires receipts, enough to prove that whoever you’re trying to disinherit has received the same amount over their adult life that they would from your estate. This is difficult to prove with children, as you are legally required to care for your children. What you have spent for them often cannot count towards their inheritance in most cases. You would have to prove that you have given them money or something of monetary value separate from their caretaking that’s of significant value.


If you are physically disabled but not mentally ailed, and one family member has taken care of you significantly more than others, you can disinherit others to leave it to your caretaker. This reasoning can be acceptable even when the caretaker isn’t a blood relative. It’s best to have proof that one person has been your caretaker, and that for this reason, they deserve your estate. You also need to prove that you are of sound mind when making this decision.

Change of Need

If one or more of your planned heirs has seen an increase or decrease in the need for your estate, you can change your will to reflect that. If one of your children, for example, has or is accumulating wealth, but another child is struggling, you can move one child’s inheritance to another. This can lead to disinheritance altogether, but this is also something to be careful with. It can lead to one inheritor being spurned and contesting the will.

Lack of a Relationship

The lack of a relationship between you and the person you’re hoping to disinherit is a common argument. The strength of this argument weakens the closer the familial relationship. 

It’s one thing to say you and your uncle were never close, and another to say you lack a relationship with your wife or child. If you lack a relationship with the former, it’s an easier argument to Pennsylvania courts. The opposite is true of your children and spouse. In fact, your lacking a relationship can become a good argument for them as to why they deserve your estate, to make up for that lack of a relationship you owed them.


If you divorce someone, you can easily justify taking them out of your will. You may have to leave an amount to them to cover alimony, but by and large, ex-spouses do not have any claim to your estate. The court can disinherit ex-spouses even if your will doesn’t say that they should. This is a situation where disinheritance is simple and easy in comparison to the other options.

Conflict Over Life Choices

Differences in beliefs about sex, gender, politics, religion, raising children/grandchildren, finances, and more have been used as justification for disinheriting someone. This is a justification that differs from court to court, based on reasoning. 

If you disagree with your spouse, children, aunt, uncle, cousin, or grandchildren based on their religious beliefs or how they raise their children, the court is not likely to adhere to your call for disinheritance. The court may change your will in response, perceiving your disinheritance to be unfair and uncalled for.

If you propose that you’re disinheriting someone because they won’t be able to handle the estate you’re giving them, the court may listen. You have to provide evidence and well-constructed reasoning. The reasoning needs to lean more towards logic than emotion to justify it to the court. Sometimes, it falls down to the personal opinion of the court that handles your will after you pass.

Contact Our Probate Attorneys To Disinherit Someone From Your Will

Disinheriting someone is a hard process to go through. It’s best to do so with a well thought out document, with proof and reasoning behind your decision. To make sure that your will isn’t going to be ignored or thrown out by the court the minute it’s contested, consult with experienced attorneys. 

Going without an attorney can see someone you want to disinherit receive a piece of your estate. To make sure your will stands against the probate process, contact the attorneys at Mazzoni Valvano Szewczyk & Karam for help.

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