Parents have many reasons to disinherit a child and exclude them from their will. In California, parents have the power to reduce, eliminate, or condition their children’s inheritance. However, if you have already written a will, you have to be specific and make your intent known; otherwise, a probate court may assume you made a mistake. 

California Estate Planning Lawyer Kavesh Minor & Otis

Disinheriting Your Child

If you have already written a will and want to exclude a child, you must make your intent very clear. Even if your child is not named as a beneficiary in your will, they may be able to file a probate challenge, telling the court you made a mistake by omitting their name. This is because California state law assumes that most parents want their children to receive an inheritance. However, the law accommodates situations in which parents want to disinherit their child.

Be Clear, and Be Specific

The best way to disinherit your child is to schedule a comprehensive review of your estate plan. You will have to make it clear that you do not want your child to receive an inheritance because simply striking their name from a will is not enough to prevent a probate challenge.

Consequently, it is essential that you name all of your children in your will, even if you are naming them for the sole purpose of disinheritance. You may wish to include an addendum stating that you have disinherited your child and have made an intentional decision to do so.

Some Important Notes and Exceptions

California law does not entitle children to their parents' properties or possessions. However, omitting a child from a will without explanation can still be troublesome, as they may tell the court that you simply forgot to list them as an heir or otherwise made a mistake. 

Most of the time, though, minor children may have a right to receive support from an estate or an estate’s proceeds. However, the law does provide some exceptions, and an estate planning attorney can help you determine whether any apply to your situation.

The Importance of Having an Estate Plan

Remember that you are only in control of your legacy if you have an estate plan. If you die without a will, a trust, or any other estate strategy, your properties, possessions, and accounts will be branded “intestate.”

When somebody dies intestate, the court uses a pre-defined legal formula to determine how your estate will be divided. This legal formula privileges your spouse, if you had one, and your living children. The probate court will not consider whether you wanted to disinherit your children in intestacy proceedings.

Do You Need To Speak With An Attorney About Estate Planning?

If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call us directly at 800.756.5596 to first register for one of our free, informative seminars. Your attendance will qualify you for a special discount for our estate planning services should you decide to make a free appointment at the conclusion of the seminar and choose to proceed with us. We proudly serve clients throughout California with offices in Torrance, Newport Beach, Orange, Woodland Hills and Pasadena.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.