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Can parents disinherit certain children for the benefit of others?

On Behalf of | Jan 26, 2024 | Estate Litigation

The death of a parent can be a real tragedy even if they lived a long, meaningful life. Whether someone dies suddenly due to a coronary event after a protracted illness, their children may experience a broad range of emotional responses. Denial and depression are common. So is anger, and those experiencing grief-related anger may sometimes target the wrong people because they cannot express themselves to their deceased parents. Sometimes, siblings lash out at each other when a parent dies.

Occasionally, there are factors that may justify anger or frustration toward a sibling. For example, the children in the family may have recently learned that their parents disinherited them or substantially reduced their inheritance for the benefit of another child in the family.

Children do not have a statutory right of inheritance

There are some jurisdictions that protect the right of children to inherit from a parent’s estate. However, Oregon does not have any specific laws protecting the inheritance rights of children. Only spouses have protection from disinheritance.

Yet, despite a lack of direct statutory protections, disinherited adult children may still have certain options. For example, they may have reason to suspect fraud or undue influence and could challenge an estate plan that excludes them as beneficiaries.

If there is evidence of misconduct, the disinherited children may have grounds to take legal action. If they can show that late-in-life changes occurred at a time when only one child had regular access to the parent and may have intentionally interfered in the relationships that the other children had with their parent, that could convince the courts that the beneficiary sibling exerted undue influence on the parents.

A parent asserting that they had made very few or minor changes to their estate plan may have been the victim of fraud if one child altered or manipulated the documents that they signed. Those who suspect that a sibling may have tampered with estate planning paperwork or pressured their parent into changing their terms may have reason to pursue probate litigation.

Asking the probate courts to throw out a fraudulent will or documents influenced by an outside party could help children uphold the true legacy intended by their parents.