You can’t choose your family. And for some people relationships with family members can be complicated. This might mean that you’re considering disinheriting a relative in your will. Choosing to disinherit someone in your will is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. If you do decide that it is still the right choice for you we’ve laid out how to disinherit someone in your will below.
In the UK you can disinherit a child or exclude a spouse from your will. That is because we all have something called testamentary freedom. This is a fancy way of saying that we each have the right to leave our estate to whoever we choose. And therefore, we also have the right to exclude people from our inheritance when we die (otherwise known as disinheriting someone).
But in order to exclude someone from your will, you need to write a will and sign it with a witness. This will make your wishes legally binding. Your Will will lay out who you want your estate (i.e your money, possessions and any property) to pass to, and how you want it to be divided up after you die. It also decides who will be responsible for task of sorting out your estate and dividing it up after you’ve died.
If you don’t have a will in place your estate will be divided up according to the national intestacy rules rather than any informal wishes you’ve laid out.
So, the first step to disinherit someone is to write and sign your will.
There are a few challenges that come with disinheriting someone in your will.
Firstly, it can damage or worsen a relationship in a way that can be difficult to mend or un-do. It’s important to consider this fully before making this kind of big decision. There are also some more functional hurdles that are worth considering. Primarily that a will that disinherits someone is more likely to be challenged.
Anyone can contest a will if they feel they have a valid legal claim. The people most likely to contest a will if they have been disinherited are:
Under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, someone that is dependent on you can challenge the fact that they’ve been excluded from your will. If successful, they’d be awarded a share of your estate. Usually, this is successful when the person challenging the will can prove both of the following:
It’s impossible to stop someone from challenging your will but you can take certain steps to reduce the risk that your will would be contested and that any contestation would be successful.
The first step to ensuring your wishes are carried out is simple. Write your will. Your will is legally binding and is the best way of ensuring your wishes are followed.
If you already have a will that includes the person or people that you want to remove, you’ll need to change that.
There are a few ways you can go about this:
For this reason, it is usually best to write a new will when you want to change your wishes.
This doesn’t have to be as expensive or complicated as you may think. You can now write your will online, in as little as 15 minutes with on-hand expert support. Life changes and wills should too. That’s why we allow you to make free unlimited changes to your will for the first year and only £10 per year after that.
Did you know that the government recommends people update their will every 5 years?
If you want to create or update your will now, just head here to start.
To avoid anyone successfully challenging your will you need to be really clear and concise.
If you want to disinherit someone from your will it’s best to explicitly include a provision naming the excluded person. This helps avoid someone challenging your will as it shows the exclusion was intentional rather than accidental.
Another way to make it clear that you have not accidentally forgotten to include someone in your will, is to name them as the recipient of a token gift, for example, a small sum of money.
A letter of wishes is an optional, non-binding document designed to make your wishes clearer. They are usually done in your own words. Usually, it’s used to determine what kind of funeral you want, to list your assets, and to leave messages to friends and family.
But if you want to disinherit someone in your will you can also use your letter of wishes to explain why you decided to disinherit that person/those people.
Communicating your wishes to disinherit someone in your will whilst you're alive is important for a few reasons, firstly it gives you the chance to explain your reasoning, and secondly, if you have the chance to talk about it, the chances that your wishes will be challenged may be reduced.
This may be a difficult conversation to have but it is more compassionate in the long run.
If you're writing your online will with Guardian Angel you’ll see an appendix section. This is an opportunity to include your wishes for your funeral, help finding your assets, and a space to leave personal messages to family and friends. If you’re disinheriting someone it’s also a way of helping your trustees and executors understand your reasoning for disinheriting an individual or individuals.
In order for a will to become legally binding it needs to be signed by you with a witness. Choosing your GP as your witness makes it harder for your will to be challenged. One of the most common ways a will is contested is to argue that the writer of the will (you) lacked mental capacity when you wrote and signed the will, and that you were unaware that you were disinheriting someone nor the impact this could have. By choosing your GP as a witness they’ll be able to confirm that you made the decisions included in your will deliberately, freely and with a sound and sober mind.
Failing that, you can ask your doctor to issue a statement about your mental capacity at the moment of writing your will, which you can keep along with your will.
Writing your will is the most important step you can take to lay out your wishes and choose who you would and wouldn’t like to benefit from your inheritance.
You can get started today and be finished in just 15 minutes - all without moving from the sofa. The process is simple, just:
Everyone should update their will at least every 5 years. Having the option of easily editing your will when you’re thinking about disinheriting someone in your will is even more important.
With our online will writing service, we’ve made editing and changing your will easier than ever. You can make unlimited changes for free for a whole year after writing your will and for only £10 a year after that.