Today I’m going to talk about what to do when a will gives you something you really don’t want, for one reason or another. If a will gives you something you don’t want, you can simply disclaim it and say you don’t want it. Then you don’t get it. The will can’t force you to take anything. There are four common situations where you would disclaim something from a will. First, you don’t want it. Maybe you dislike the person that made the will, and you want nothing from them, and you want to show that to them,
even after they’re gone. Then you disclaim the gift. You don’t get it. It goes back into the estate and goes to the next beneficiary. A problem we all want to have is our estate is simply too large, and it’s already taxable, so we don’t want another gift to make our estate larger. That’s a wonderful thing, if that’s the case. In that situation, you would disclaim the gift, because you don’t want your estate to be bigger and create tax complications.
Next, when the gift is coming to you and there’s a successor beneficiary. For example, if mom gave you $75,000, and if you didn’t survive, they would give brother, Tom, $75,000 and you wanted that to go straight to Tom, if you disclaimed what you were getting in the will, it would skip you and go straight to Tom, because you disclaimed it. You don’t want it.
The next situation, which I actually just spoke to someone about this the other day, they found their mom’s will in their … Well, they found a draft of their mom’s will. Everybody knew their mom wanted one son to get everything and the other two sons to get nothing, because the one son did so much. The other two sons knew that, and they were on board with that. What happened here is they found a draft of the will changing it to that, but it wasn’t signed and it wasn’t executed properly, so they reverted to the old will, which split everything equally. So, each of the three siblings got 33%. when I talked to them, they asked how they could make it so the one brother could get everything he was supposed to. I explained to them the other two siblings could simply disclaim the gift, which would adjust the total gift to the brother and make him the 100% beneficiary.
There are ways to help make sure we follow people’s wishes, even after they’re gone and if their will says something different, and that is by disclaiming gifts. If you have questions about this or any other estate planning topic, you can call me at my office, (802) 442-9800, or schedule a consultation online.
William C. Deveneau is an attorney practicing in Southern Vermont, including Bennington and Manchester, and New York, Albany, Colonie, Hoosick Falls, and Troy.