Things to Consider When Removing a Beneficiary From Your Will


Posted by heritagelaw on Mar 3, 2020 in Blog, Wills & Estate

Keeping your will up-to-date is crucial in order for the process of dividing your estate to go smoothly following your death. Things change over the years and so too can your decisions regarding who is to receive benefits from your will.

The decision to remove a beneficiary from a will is usually not an easy one. Single conflicting events, divorce and the complete breakdown of a relationship may have you reconsider who you wish to benefit from your assets when you pass.

However, before you start striking individuals out of your will, there are some things you may want to consider prior to making such important changes.

What is a Beneficiary?

A beneficiary is an individual or other legal entity who receives money or other benefits from your will, including property, cash or other assets.

A beneficiary can be a spouse, child, grandchild, other relative, friend, organization or charity. An individual cannot be a beneficiary is that person is a witness to the signing of the will or the person is found to be criminally responsible for your death.

Despite movies and television shows that depict otherwise, pets cannot be named as beneficiaries in your will. In the eyes of the law, pets are considered to be property. So while they cannot benefit from your assets when you die, you can stipulate who will take care of them after you pass.

If no beneficiaries are named in your will, the law will decide who will receive your property after you die. Usually this is your closest relative like a spouse or children.

For more information on choosing a beneficiary for your will, contact our expert lawyers at Heritage Law for professional legal advice.

After you pass, the executor of your will sends a letter to the beneficiary providing details of the will and what that individual is expected to receive. They will then contact the beneficiary again to indicate when the benefits will be received.

It usually takes 9-12 months for benefits to be granted to the beneficiary. Upon receiving the benefits, the beneficiary is usually expected to sign a receipt to confirm that it has been received. In some cases, beneficiaries may need to pay income tax on the amount received.

Things to Consider When Removing a Beneficiary From Your Will

As the creator of your will, you have every right to add or remove any beneficiaries that you deem fit to receive your properties and assets when you die. However, before you start scratching beneficiaries from your will, there are some aspects you should seriously consider:

1. Removing Outdated Beneficiaries

One reason that you may want to remove a beneficiary from your will is if the beneficiary is not consistent with your wishes – such as as ex-spouse. Or it may be possible that the beneficiary, due to age or health, could pass away before you do.

2. You Must Follow the Same Formalities Required When the Will was Originally Made

In order to make any changes to your will, you may have to prove “testamentary capacity”, meaning that you must show that you know exactly what you are doing. This protects you from having other individuals influence your decision to add or remove beneficiaries – especially if your mental faculties have declined.

Once that has been established, you would then need to follow the same formalities required when your will was originally made. This means having the will properly witnessed and notarized.

3. Removed Beneficiaries Can Challenge the New Will

When you update your will to disinclude an individual as a beneficiary, you need to be very clear in the language you use and include an express disinheritance provision.

Otherwise, those omitted from your will can argue your decision and claim that you simply forgot to include them in the will.

4. There Could Be Emotional Consequences

Whatever your reasons are for removing an individual as a beneficiary from your will, there are bound to be some hurt and hard feelings after you pass away.

Remember, a will is more than a document or piece of paper – it is your final wishes upon your death and will have a direct impact on the ones you leave behind.

If possible, make a recording or write out exactly why you are having this individual removed from your will. This will also help if that individual attempts to challenge the updated will.

Should you be removing an individual for practical reasons, such as a divorce or their health and age, try to explain your decision to the individual in person.

5. Challenges to Your Will Can Have Financial Impacts

Should an individual you remove as beneficiary from your will decides to challenge their omission, they can initiate litigation in which the challenge is brought to court.

The legal fees of litigation on behalf of the deceased are taken from the value of the estate. Challenges to your will can potentially reduce the size of your estate.

How to Remove a Beneficiary From Your Will

Removing a beneficiary from your will is a fairly simple process but must be completed accurately and appropriately to avoid litigation down the road.

If you are looking to remove a beneficiary from your will, or want to make any changes to you will, we recommend you contact our professional and experienced lawyers at Heritage Law. We can help you make the proper changes to your will.