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The word 'decedents' refers to people who are deceased. This term is used in legal documents such as Last Will and Testaments, living trusts and irrevocable life insurance trusts. Wills and trusts are used to designate beneficiaries who will receive the decedent's assets upon their death.

Decedents can bequeath their earthly possessions however they see fit. In most cases, the decedent chooses to gift the majority of their assets to their spouse and children. If the decedent does not have a spouse or children, they generally gift to direct lineage relatives such as aunts, uncles and cousins.

The Will is the legal instrument which allows the decedent to specifically outline where their assets will transfer when they die. If the decedent has a spouse or children whom he wishes to disinherit, he must state this fact within the Will.

By placing the statement in writing, the decedent is claiming they are aware the heir is alive and have specifically chosen to leave them out of the Will. Otherwise, the heir can contest the Will stating the decedent believed the heir may have been dead.

A prime example of this occurred with one of my associates. Her mother was terminally ill and had chosen to disinherit her son. He had engaged in violent and bizarre behavior and she wanted nothing further to do with him. She stated that he was a destructive force within the family and had caused considerable ill-will within the family dynamics.

That type of statement shows strong evidence to the court that the heir is not rightfully entitled to the decedent's belongings. It also deters the heir from contesting the Will. If the heir chooses to contest the Will, the burden of proof rests with them.

While the heir apparent is responsible for paying legal fees associated with contesting the Will; this action can inflict serious financial consequences for the estate. This again demonstrates the need for strong statements when disinheriting relatives.

Every person should engage in estate planning. Otherwise, everything you own will be transferred to probate and a judge will decide who receives your belongings. Chances are, they won't be distributed the way you intended.

At minimum estate planning should consist of a Will, Healthcare Proxy and Power of Attorney. Regardless of how many or how few assets you have, estate planning is crucial if you have minor children.

We invite you to learn more about estate planning, inheritance, trusts, will and other life matters in our all-inclusive estate planning article library. If you are entitled to inheritance held in probate, or would like to sell probate real estate, contact Simon Volkov today. Simon specializes in helping beneficiaries liquidate probate assets in a timely fashion.