15 October 2018

Estate Planning: Excluding A Child

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While surfing the web this week I came across an article concerning Richard Harrison. For those of you not familiar with the name, Mr. Harrison was on the reality-based television show "Pawn Stars," where he was affectionately referred to as "the Old Man."

Now, before I go any further, let me assure you that I’m not really into the whole celebrity voyeurism thing that seems so prevalent today. I honestly couldn’t care less about the Kardashians or which stars are dancing.

What I am is an estate planning nerd. I love reading anything that brings up estate planning especially when it’s in the news, which leads me to Mr. Harrison, who passed away recently apparently leaving a last will and testament.

According to the article, Mr. Harrison amended his will in 2017. The amendment, or codicil, excluded one of his three sons and the son’s issue (children, grandchildren, etc.). It’s this exclusion that warranted the article.

The article didn’t give a reason for the exclusion of the son, and the will was artfully drafted to acknowledge the son but give no concrete reason for his removal. In other words, Mr. Harrison made a decision about his estate plan and the attorney drafted the plan accordingly. End of story.

I think the reason this even warranted an article is because a celebrity varied away from what most of us consider a typical estate plan.

Most of the plans that I draft fall into what I call the typical “I Love You” estate plan. An "I Love You" estate plan essentially says everything to the spouse and then to the kids. I’m willing to bet that 85 percent of the wills and trusts that I draft include a testamentary provision similar to this.

However, the important thing to remember is that plans don’t have to follow this type of testamentary distribution. It’s your property, folks, and if you want to exclude a child, you should feel free to do so. It may go against the norm but that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or inappropriate. It simply means that in your particular family dynamic, favoring one child or disfavoring another one is the right thing to do.

I don’t know Mr. Harrison’s excluded son or anything about him. Maybe there is a great reason for the exclusion, or maybe not. The thing is, nobody should have an expectation of being included in an estate plan, and if they do, that’s their problem, not yours.

Click here for the original article from NWI Times.

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