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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

As an estate planning attorney for more than 20 years I’ve seen just about every situation you can think of arise when it comes to dealing with family members and distributing estate assets. One of the questions that comes up regularly is whether a parent could actually leave nothing to their children. The short answer is yes. While this may seem harsh, there are a variety of reasons why this could be a good idea.

For example, suppose that one of your children suffers from an addiction to alcohol or drugs, or gambling or some other issue. Even though you love your child, it would probably not be a good idea to leave money, property, and other valuable assets to this child after you pass away. If you were to do this, it would likely only make the addiction your child suffers worse.

Additionally, some parents choose not to leave money, property, or assets to their children because they want their children to be independent and to be able to care for themselves. Some parents believe that if they leave a large inheritance to their children, their children will lose all motivation to reach for and accomplish their own goals and dreams.

This appears to be the situation for well-known actors Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. They recently announced that because their children live a privileged life and don’t even know it that they plan on not leaving much to their children when they pass away. According to these actors, if their kids want to live a life of luxury, they’re going to have to earn it themselves.

If in fact you plan to leave nothing to your children, then how do you do it? The wrong way is to simply not list your children in your last will and testament. If you do this, Idaho law will suppose that you simply forgot to name your children but that your intention was that your children would receive something from your estate. If you simply do not name your children, your children will still receive a portion of your estate through Idaho’s statutes.

Another wrong way that people often talk about that you should not use is to state in your will that you’re leaving a specific child the sum of only $1.00, or some other trivial amount of money. The reason you shouldn’t do this, is because it will likely cost your estate much more money than $1.00 to get that $1.00 to them. For example, suppose that you and your child are estranged and you don’t know where they are living. However, in your will you state that you are leaving $1.00 to this child as a way of disinheriting them from your estate. Your personal representative now has a legal obligation to locate that child and to deliver that $1.00 to them. It could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to get this done.

The correct way to do it if you choose to leave nothing to your children is to name your children and then specifically state that you are leaving them nothing. You don’t have to use the word disinherit, and you don’t have to be cruel about it. You can just give a specific straightforward sentence that says my child is John Doe, and I leave them nothing from my estate.

There are numerous reasons why parents may choose to leave nothing for their children as part of their estate plan. If this is something you have decided to do, make sure you do it the right way. We recommend that you work with a qualified Idaho estate planning attorney to help make sure that this is done in a way that a couple shows your intent. We have helped numerous clients accomplish this and we are confident we can help you too.


If you have any questions about your estate or how to simplify your plans for your family and loved ones, we can help.  Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Pocatello. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Pocatello Estate Planning problems. I have helped numerous clients create their own customized estate plans and I’m confident that I can help you too.

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