John Szepietowski of Audley Chaucer Solicitors advises that the decision to remove a child from a will is a deeply impactful decision with long-lasting ramifications.
The testator (person making the will) may not feel that their child ‘deserves’ anything from their estate. This could be due to a lack of a close bond to their child, and maybe even active dislike. While the parent-child bond is often held sacred, the ideal does not always match the reality. A lack of care towards the parent in later life, such as in frailty or ill-health, may result in the parents taking their version of revenge on the child, especially if that child’s share is then redistributed to their siblings
Estrangement is another reason. If the child is no more than a stranger, especially if there have been long periods of no, or only sporadic, contact, then the testator may feel no positive obligation towards them to provide for them in their will. The testator may not even know where the child lives, especially if they have flown far from the nest or even abroad.
Alternatively, the child in question may be sufficiently independent that the testator feels that the child does not ‘need’ the testator’s wealth. The testator may want to instead distribute their estate to less fortunate friends and relatives, such siblings of the disinherited child.
Wills are a difficult topic to discuss – no one likes thinking about their impending demise. The division of one’s assets is a thorny issue, as testators may be reluctant to discuss the amount of their wealth, and it may be a source of embarrassment. If a testator is wealthy and that is made known, they may worry that they are perceived as miserly or ungenerous, or find others begin requesting financial assistance from them. If there is little in their estate, they might not want to be pitied nor considered to be reckless with money. Furthermore, once the contents of a will is discussed, the testator may feel as if their relatives are just ‘waiting from them to die’.
However, if a child is cut out of a will, and the matter has not been previously discussed, the child in question may feel deliberately excluded and penalised, especially if their siblings or others to whom they are close substantially benefit. This can lead to resentment not only towards the deceased, and thereby tainting one-loved memories, but also towards those who have gained from the estate. As the deceased is no longer with them, the child is unable to confront their parent and is left with ever-lingering questions.
When it comes to wills, families would ideally address matters head on: discussing not only how much wealth the testator has, but also how much should go to each child (or friend) and why. If all those affected by the will are in agreement prior to death, then there is less of a risk of contentious probate and a breakdown of relationships. All things considered, the last of the testator’s wishes would be to cause misery to the people they left behind.