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What is the best estate planning way to exclude a relative?

The strong point of making a will in Ohio and elsewhere is that it gives to the maker the right to control the disposition of estate assets after his or her death. This is no small benefit when one considers that, without a will, the disposition of assets will go by state statute. Without estate planning and a will, one cannot be assured how these matters will be handled. It will not even be certain who will step forth to seek the authority to administer the estate for the intestate decedent.

Many wills follow a standard pattern of leaving everything to the surviving spouse and then to the children. However, on occasion the maker wants to exclude a child or other blood relative from the will. The question arises whether the maker should give $1 dollar or other token bequest to the excluded person.

The main reason to mention the disinherited individual is to show that the testator did not forget the person. By not mentioning the person at all, he or she can easily object to probate by expressing shock and dismay, and by rationalizing that his or her parent would not forget him or her. Therefore, it must have been a clerical error and it should be corrected.

That argument has indeed been used by objectors who have held up estate probate for months and sometimes years. To prevent that person from making an objection, it is best to mention him or her, but the token bequest is unnecessary and possibly confusing, so it should be left out.  The testator can say briefly that considerations were thoughtfully made but it was decided to leave that person out.

In that way, the individual cannot object on the basis of inadvertence or clerical mistake. When meeting with the Ohio estate planning attorney, one should explain such situations. Give the reasons for different treatment of an heir from others of equal standing so that the attorney will know precisely how to handle the matter in the best light possible.

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