Estranged Family Members

Your estate and elder care planning will become much more complicated if you are dealing with a fractious family where you are estranged from one or more family members. You should also be concerned if you have an illegitimate child with whom you have little or no contact. In both of these situations you must be certain to implement well crafted legal documents in order to handle your personal matters should you become disabled or die. Without a well written will, trust, power of attorney or health directive you may be placing your family in a position to defend litigation brought by an illegitimate or estranged child.

If you want to make certain that a family member is intentionally left out of the disposition of the assets in your will, then you should make certain to state that this individual is left nothing whatsoever. This will show that the estranged family member has not been unintentionally left out of the document which in turn deprives them of their inheritance. There is no need to leave them a specific bequest of even one dollar. In fact, by leaving them a specific bequest in your will, you may be requiring your estate administrator to give them notice of your death and their small inheritance. In many circumstances, it may be appropriate to delineate in your estate planning documents why you have made little or no provision for these family members. You should also make certain to name any person who is deemed to be your child in your will! A provision specifically set aside in your will or trust should deal with both children and/or grandchildren. It is also recommended that in the case of an elderly person that he or she be examined by their family physician close to the time of the signing of their estate planning documents so that they can attest to the mental acuity and capacity of the testator, the person who makes the will. Remember an ounce of prevention will be quite useful to stave off potential third party litigation.

If you die without a will or become disabled without a power of attorney or healthcare directive, you may be opening the door for one of these estranged for illegitimate children to seek to take control over your personal matters or your estate. When dealing with a fractious family is always in your best interest to have well written documents that are up to date and in place before you become disabled or die. It is not a good idea to use the lucid moments rule in order to implement a new set of documents. You should always anticipate that his ne’er-do-well family members will attempt to take control of your health and wealth care or your estate after your death should the occasion arise.


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