Can an elderly parent legally exclude one of her adult children from an inheritance?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can an elderly parent legally exclude one of her adult children from an inheritance?

My mom, a seventy-nine year old widow has established a trust for her estate that is worth about 3 million dollars. She has excluded me from the trust and has listed just my two sisters in it. My two sisters live in Nevada and are rarely here to help her with day-to-day issues. They just rushed in three years ago when her third husband past away and the three of them had this trust established that excludes me. What legal recourse do I have to a third of this estate upon her death?

Asked on September 4, 2017 under Estate Planning, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You don't have any recourse unless you can show (by proof or evidence):
1) Your mother was mentally incompetent when she created the trust;
2) The trust was the product of fraud (e.g. your sisters showed her papers that would have included you, then had her sign different papers);
3) Your sisters used illegal threats of some sort (e.g. of violence; of confining her to her home) to get her to create the trust. 
(There is another ground which would not apply here, if your sisters are out of state and rarely around: undue influence. That generally applies if it can be shown that the day to day caregiver used his/her position of influence and control to "overpower" the person's will.)
Unless you can show one of the above fundamental defects to the voluntariness of the trust or your mother's mental capacity to create it--which will likely not be easy--your mother has the right to disinherit or otherwise exclude you; there is no law saying that all children must inherit, and parents may freely disinherit or exclude some or all.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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