Estate Planning

The Risk of DIY Planning

Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning Mistake Disinherits Child

by Rania Combs

Divorce ends a marriage, but not the relationship between a parent and a child. Most divorced parents intend to be an active part of their children’s lives, supporting them both emotionally and financially if they are able.

And despite remarrying and having additional children, most parents still want children from a previous relationship to be beneficiaries of their estates. That’s why the story of a girl I’ll call “Rose” is so heartbreaking.

Her father “Jack” divorced her mother, remarried and had two more children with his new wife. But Jack continued to have a good relationship with Rose, and was involved in her life.

Before traveling on a last minute business trip, he hastily made a holographic will giving all his worldly possessions to his wife. Jack died. His holographic will was declared valid, and his wife was named as the sole beneficiary of his estate.

Perhaps Jack believed that his wife would help Rose financially. But as the sole beneficiary of his estate, his wife has complete control over Jack’s assets. She has the power to decide how the assets will be used and who will benefit from them. She has chosen not to share any of Jack’s estate with Rose.

If Jack had consulted an attorney, he could have made a will that set aside a portion of his assets in trust for Rose’s benefit. Rose heads off to college this year. The trust assets could have been used to help Rose pay for her college education. But by taking his estate planning into his own hands, he disinherited his young daughter instead.

It probably wasn’t what Jack intended to do, but Rose is living with the consequences of that mistake.

This article was initially published on April 14, 2010, and updated on July 14, 2021.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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  1. A BIG Oops! How Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning Can Disinherit Your Children | Lichterman Law PLC

    April 18, 2010 at 9:28pm

    […] be possible?  Rania Combs, a Texas Wills and Trusts lawyer, has a great blog post entitled “Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning Mistake Disinherits Child.“  Take the time to read the article – it is a quick read and very well done.  The […]

  2. uberVU - social comments

    April 19, 2010 at 10:25am

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by trustlawgroup: Sad but common mistake. Use attorney 2 avoid. RT @raniacombs Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning Mistake Disinherits Child.

  3. JoeTaxpayer

    June 4, 2010 at 8:15pm

    This is why estate planning is so important. We are set up that if either of us goes, insurance and some assets land in a trust to protect our daughter should the surviving spouse remarry.

    When counseling my mother-in-law on how to set up her trust (with the trust attorney) I told her that I should not be mentioned at all, she dies, the trust is for her two daughters, my wife passes after, our daughter gets it. Trust attorney asked “who gets it if God-forbid your wife and daughter go in an accident?” I told MIL to pick a charity. If my family is gone, last thing I want is that money. People don’t want to think about these things, but as you’ve seen, some awful things can happen.

  4. Dangers of Do-It-Yourself Estate Planning in Maryland | Montefusco Estate Planning

    May 14, 2014 at 11:54am

    […] tax exemption. Or the father accidentally leaving $400,000 to his son he tried to disinherit. Or accidentally disinheriting a child. Or thousands of dollars spent by family members on litigation over an ambiguous […]