Estate planning (estranged parents) Is the paperwork done?

by Sheri McGregor, M.A.

estate planning estranged parentsOnce upon a time there were parents who loved their children. They devoted their energy and time to those kids’ well-being, and for the most part, they did well. As time passed and the children grew, those parents adapted. They let loose their hands as those darling children headed into kindergarten for the very first time. They saw those growing children through sports and scrapes. They were nervous when they went to middle and high school and learned to drive a car. But they smiled and let them grow and go. That’s what parents do.

With some of those children, the love went on, shared and returned. As adults, those children were more like friends in some ways, but the parents still played a supportive role. The parents listened when the young adults confided about college or work or a new love in their lives. They offered advice when asked, injected a wise comment here or there, and watched with pride as their adult children matured into good citizens of planet Earth. They were there to celebrate a promotion, help when someone got sick, and step into the role of grandparents to new darling loves they knew would grow and go. But for now, they would hold their grandbabies, love them, and cherish the moments. Time goes fast, and that’s what parents do.

estate planning estranged parentsHowever, somewhere along the way, one child (or sometimes more than one) changes. It can’t be considered growing in the typical way. It’s a veering off, and then looking back through eyes that no longer see the good. It’s revisionist history, a new story, a tale that doesn’t tell the truth. And sometimes it’s a twisted game. A cruel activity that tugs at heart strings and then chokes them off, repeatedly. It’s a weird racket that says I don’t want you, but you must still want me—forever.

The parent, remembering the person they once knew, hopes that son or daughter will return. Perhaps that hope never really goes away. But there comes a time when abuse, in whatever form, cannot be tolerated. So, the parents give in, move forward and make the best of things. Sometimes, that requires words (I won’t play this game anymore), or actions (block the phone number). Other times, it’s a decision to let the distance remain and even grow. The gaping gap gets knitted over because it must be. A bridge is required for a path forward. Maybe there are grandchildren from an adult child whose eyes have not changed. Maybe there are other reasons. Things like a decision to retire, an illness that puts priorities firmly on self-care and health, or a need to settle things so that firm ground is underfoot.

estate planning estranged parentsYou have a measure of closure in that decision. And you move on. You’re even happy—with the people who love you, the hobbies you enjoy, important work that brings meaning into your life. Whatever it is that makes you you—because you are back, maybe even better.

But doors that are closed can still be opened. And because you’ve seen the twisted hindsight, the abuse or manipulation, you make a more final move. One that protects the people you love who are part of your life. You decide to change your estate documents.

You’ve deliberated for years.  You know it’s all right to remove a child from inheritance, or perhaps to make a specific, limited gift. To exclude the children of an estranged adult child because they’re not born yet, you don’t know them, or if you have a son, he might have children out there somewhere. Your attorney says she’s seen people come out of the woodwork with claims. And you can always change the paperwork later if you need or want to. Your attorney tells you she advises people to do what is right for them at the current time. And the timing is right…now.

Estate planning: Estranged parents may be sad

estate planning estranged parentsAs you drive away, you feel secure. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t feel sad. Maybe you even cry. Maybe you wonder: What if you have it all wrong? What if my son or daughter doesn’t expect this, and will one day be filled with regret? You imagine that handsome face twisted in pain. You see tears welling in those beautiful eyes. And then you remember the truth. Those eyes have changed. And so, you tuck the sadness away. You’re practiced by now. And it feels good to have taken the action you’ve been putting off. You’ve signed the paperwork for a reason.

Your attorney has validated your worries. She sees estrangement all the time. After the parents are dead and gone, she has seen the disinherited try to guilt a sibling into splitting their rightful share. You don’t want that to happen, the manipulation and abuse. So, you have protected the ones you love. You have shut the door to added stress to the ones who will be sad when you die. You can always change the paperwork, but for now you have gotten your things in order. Because that’s what parents do.

More on end-of-life Decisions and estate planning for estranged parents

To find more specific help about making end-of-life decisions and on estate planning for estranged parents, there is a chapter in Done With The Crying devoted to this topic that provides examples, tools to clarify your feelings and come to decisions you can feel secure about.

These decisions are not necessarily easy, but they are important ones. And there is the security in knowing your wishes will be honored.

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3 thoughts on “Estate planning (estranged parents) Is the paperwork done?

  1. peaceful2367

    Most of these posts hit straight home. We, also, conducted Estate planning this summer. It was a painstaking decision but one that my husband and I were in total agreement with. Our nightmare began around the time our estranged child entered college, 2011. We have now been estranged for about 3 years. As our relationship from 2011 until 2015 was on “good terms” when we were financially supporting our child, we decided enough was enough, presto, no more working on the relationship and the estrangement began. Because of this, we decided when entering our house in trust and conducting estate planning, our eldest child was being excluded. This was decided so that it wouldn’t be a responsibility left to our son to communicate. We took that burden from him as this was our wish and decision. Excluding a child from your will guarantees that the will cannot be successfully contested, again taking the burden away from any siblings. Our door is always open, our phone is always on. If our adult child decides he wants to work on the relationship with our family, we are willing to work as well.

  2. Stephen

    My daughters estrangement happened almost 2 years ago and at the same time, we were doing our trust. I kept my daughter completely out of the trust and I did put a small gift for my grand child we barely know. My other child will get everything. I am glad to read this, because I did not think about my daughter guilt tripping her sibling into giving her something. Now, I will share this info with my other child to not under any circumstances ever help out the sister financially, specially with inheritance money. My other child knows how the sister is and she neglects her sibling too. Her sibling holds out hope, but also knows hope is fading. I feel bad for her sibling, as her sibling loves her and does not understand why she wants nothing to do with her sibling. I believe it is a jealousy thing, but who knows, except her. My thought is, you want to throw me away, then you do not deserve anything I leave behind, specially money.

  3. Yaicha

    Yesterday I left the attorney’s office and have excluded my ES and his family to all I will be leaving as an inheritance. I never would have imagined my beautiful boy would grow up to be an angry, aggressive and hate filled person. My decision was not made in haste and I am happy to read that this decision was mine and my husband’s. My other son will not need to decide anything, it is all spelled out in legal terms.
    Since there is no physical death to mourn, it has been hard to grieve the loss. This has helped me to finalize and move on.
    As Sheri stated, the time is now to put things in order. My attorney said we were certainly not the only estrangement she has seen. It will take time for me to feel comfortable with this decision but I know it’s the right one for me at this time and that gives me peace.


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