It is not uncommon for a parent to disinherit a child. This is usually done pro forma when leaving an entire estate to a surviving spouse. Parents with younger children generally disinherit them in order to insure that their spouses are left with sufficient assets to raise the kids to adulthood. Adult children are often disinherited in favor of a surviving parent to insure that their parents will have sufficient resources to see them through retirement.

Occasionally, a parent will disinherit a child because of some conflict or dispute. Legally, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with this. Children do not have any specific legal right to inherit from their parents and no special excuse or reason need be given if one decides to omit a child from his or her will. It is not necessary to leave some minimal sum of money to a disfavored child as a final slap to emphasize that he or she has not been accidentally forgotten but has , instead, been intentionally omitted.

That said, I would strongly suggest that when a parent makes a decision to completely disinherit a child, this be done without adding any language giving specific reasons or expressing displeasure.There are many reasons for this. Your harsh words will live long after you do . The pain they cause may be deep and may last long after your death. The harsh words of an angry will may also cast your memory in a less favorable light than you would want.

Many years ago, I drafted a will for a client who wished to disinherit one of her daughters in favor of the other. She was bitter about having being ignored by her daughter and insisted that I include language in her will expressing her feelings.

About a year after executing her will, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. During her illness, her daughters came together and tearfully reunited with her to offer her care and solace in her last months. Even though the daughter who was the sole beneficiary under the will quickly offered to share her inheritance with her sister, they both suffered extraordinary pain when their mother’s harsh words reached out from the grave. Since that time, I have steadfastly refused to draft any will which includes angry words.