Forgetting to Address Unborn Children

If you plan to provide for your children through direct gifts or other means, you might have already planned to exclude any future, yet-to-be born children from your estate.  However, any biological child will be presumed entitled to a share of your estate, even if they were born after you wrote your will.

Not Having a “No-Contest” Clause

A no-contest clause can be used to enforce the reduction of an heir’s inheritance. While no-contest clauses are subject to several critical restrictions, they can generally be used to disinherit an individual if they contest or object to a trust or a will or any of its provisions.

Believing a $1 Inheritance Can Avoid Contests

Some people mistakenly believe that leaving a token inheritance is insurance against an estate challenge. After all: a gift of even $1 should, at least in theory, show the court that the heir was not forgotten. However, even if the court upholds the provisions of your estate plan, a contest can be time-consuming, emotionally exhausting, and financially ruinous for the estate.

Since the decedent’s appointed executor must defend the estate from any challenges using the estate’s own assets, a failed contest could still cause the estate’s value to shrink considerably, depriving other heirs of their fair share.

Failing to Review Your Estate Plan

A disinheritance is only effective when it accounts for every contingency. All too often, estate planners over-emphasize their will and trust in disinheritance decisions.

However, inheritances come in many forms. Most bank accounts, IRAs, and investment portfolios have special beneficiary designations, which allow assets to transfer to an heir outside of probate.

Since assets governed by beneficiary designations are not subject to the probate court’s oversight, any omitted, non-probate assets could find their way to a disinherited heir without any means for recourse.


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