Feb. 18 post I noted that Florida law does not require you to leave anything to an adult child in your will. From time to time I will meet with a client who wishes to disinherit a child. It is a decision generally accompanied by considerable anguish, often following an extended period of estrangement and discord. This is the decision that was apparently made by Vidal Sassoon, the avante-garde hairstylist and business mogul. Sassoon died of leukemia in California last May. The Daily Mail now reports that Sassoon's will cuts out David Sassoon, one of his three children. The will was written two months before Sassoon's May 2012 death. David Sassoon, 41, will get none of his father's reported $152 million fortune. Sassoon had noted in his memoir that David was a "mischievous" child, but the details of their relationship are not known. Sassoon has two other children.
Will there be an estate challenge? On what basis? How will the disinheritance impact the relationship of David and his two siblings? I suspect we have not heard the last of this story.
If you are considering disinheriting an adult child or leaving him/her a significantly lesser amount than the child likely feels entitled to, I urge you to consult an experienced estate planning attorney and think, re-think and think again. If you decide to disinherit, your attorney will advise you on the best way to proceed. Just as there are smarter methods to pass assets to your heirs, so there are smarter ways to cut out an heir. For example, contrary to popular belief, it is not advisable to leave $1 to the child you wish to disinherit; that can open the door wider to a possible estate challenge and delay the administration and closure of your estate.
Many people mistakenly think that adding an in terrorem clause to their will or trust will defuse potential estate challenges if a child is disgruntled with the size of his inheritance or cut out entirely. The in terrorem clause states that the person challenging the estate loses the right to receive anything that he would have otherwise received under the instrument. However, Florida does not recognize the validity of the in terrorem clause.
If you need help with these matters, contact The Karp Law Firm lawyers for assistance.