Woman’s destruction of fortune teaches estate planning lesson

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2015 | Estate Planning

Nevada residents may have read about the Austrian woman who reportedly destroyed her fortune to prevent her heirs from getting anything when she died. The woman reportedly shredded approximately $1 million worth of Euros and left the pieces all over her nursing home bed. She also cut up all of her savings accounts passbooks for the same purpose.

The case differences between Austrian and U.S. estate laws are illustrated. In Austria and some other European countries, heirs have the right to their inheritances. People are unable to cut their children out of their wills, unlike in the U.S. Austria’s Central Bank also stated that the bank would replace all of the money for the heirs as long as they still have the shredded bits.

In most American states, a testator may expressly cut children out of the inheritance they would otherwise have received. People may not do so with their spouses, however, in the majority of states. The only real way to cut a spouse out of their inheritance is to either have a valid prenuptial agreement in place or to divorce them. This is because the state believes that, as a matter of public policy, a spouse should be provided for after the other spouse dies.

There are multiple reasons why a person may want to prevent a specific child from inheriting. The child may already be successful on their own, and the person may want to designate their portion to a charity or to a less-successful child. Whatever the reason, parents who wants to disinherit one of their children may want to meet with an estate planning attorney for help in how to do so in their last will and testament. It may also be a good idea to sit down with the family members and explain clearly what they are doing and why.