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Do I Have to Leave My Kids at Least $1?

If I made a “Top Ten” list of estate planning myths, close to the top would be the belief that one cannot simply disinherit a child and that the clever workaround is to leave them one dollar.

However, in North Carolina, a parent is not required to leave their child anything. Not even $1! The only person one cannot disinherit (at least not easily) is their spouse. Leaving $1 to a child may in fact create unwanted (and costly) consequences to the estate.

First, the bequest of $1 to that child may infuriate them to the point of filing a will contest, thereby exposing your estate to lengthy, expensive litigation. Second, your executor is required to issue a check for $1 to that beneficiary. In order for your executor to close the estate checking account, the check must clear the bank. Also, in order to file a final account and close the estate proceedings with the court, your executor must submit written receipts and releases from all of the estate beneficiaries. As you might guess, that check is never going to get cashed, and that receipt is not going to get signed. In fact, it may be returned unsigned but with some other choice words from the beneficiary! Your executor is then in the position of having to deal with the court to address the issue of not having the required receipts.

What is the best way to disinherit a child? You may include a statement in your will or trust acknowledging that you have intentionally omitted that person from the will. Some “disinheritances” don’t result from bad blood. You may go further to explain that the omission of that person does not result from lack of love or affection.

Amy Shue Isaacs
Probate/Estate Administration Attorney