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Disinheritance: Is it always dramatic?

Disinheriting someone in a will can seem like a painful slight; a way to hurt someone or reinforce the message that there was no remaining value in a relationship. 

However, the fact is that sometimes disinheriting someone in a will means something else -- something far less dramatic than what people expect. Before you make any assumptions about disinheritance or using such language in your own estate plan, you should know that there can be another side to this decision.

Burt Reynolds' decision to disinherit

As a reminder that there can be more to disinheritance than meets the eye, we can look at the estate plan of Burt Reynolds, who recently passed away.

According to reports, Reynolds stated in his will that he intentionally omitted his only son. He stated that he did so because he already provided for his son during his lifetime. He also noted in his will that he established a Declaration of Trust for the benefit of his son.

While we cannot know for sure what this means, as the contents and specifications of a trust are private, sources reason that Reynolds' disinheritance of his son was not meant as a slight, but rather as an indication that he had other arrangements in place. 

Lessons we can learn

While it might seem tempting to bristle upon seeing the word "disinherit" in a person's will, it is wise to remember that such decisions are not always as dramatic as they seem, as appears to be the case with Reynolds and his son. And because other planning options, including trusts, are confidential, the public may never be privy to these details. This can create some confusion, but typically only among those who are not involved in the trust or estate administration process.

This can also be a reminder that there is great value placed on the things people say in their estate plans. Often, these documents are the final word on a person's wishes, and they are under great scrutiny. Because of this, it is vital that the language in these documents be clear, enforceable and accurately reflective of a person's wishes.

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