There are very few restrictions on people’s ability to disinherit a child. Sometimes courts will not allow the disinheritance if the reasons for it are against the strong public policy of the state. A court in New Jersey has made clear that religious discrimination is not a reason to disallow a disinheritance in that state.
In 1987, New Jersey man Kenneth Jameson drafted a will which specifically disinherited his daughter Stacy Wolin. According to the will, the reason for the disinheritance was her selfish, manipulative, cruel and abusive behavior. Jameson passed away in 2014 and the daughter has been attempting to get the courts to disregard the disinheritance.
She claims the real reason she was disinherited is that her Catholic parents objected to her dating a Jewish man in college. She later married the man, presumably against her parents’ wishes.
The Associated Press reports that a New Jersey appellate court has ruled against Wolin in “Appeal denied for daughter disinherited from father's will.”
The court ruled that New Jersey’s anti-discrimination laws do not disallow a discriminatory disinheritance. It decided that courts are required to uphold wills even if they are contrary to the principles of justice and humanity as long as the person drafting the will was competent to do so.
It is not known whether Wolin plans to appeal the decision to a higher court.
The laws on disallowing a disinheritance or other will provisions as against public policy vary from state to state and are normally decided on an ad hoc basis by courts when specific issues are raised.
Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When making your estate plans or when probating an estate or administering a trust, do not go it alone. Be sure to engage a Cincinnati estate planning attorney.
For more information about estate planning, probate or trust administration in Cincinnati (and throughout the rest of Southwest Ohio) and to review free resources regarding estate planning, probate or trust administration, visit my website. If you have questions regarding this article or a particular legal matter, feel free to contact me at 513-399-PLAN (7526).
Reference: Associated Press (Aug. 14, 2016) “Appeal denied for daughter disinherited from father's will.”