Not every parent/child relationship survives into adulthood. For one reason or another, a parent and a child can become estranged or otherwise don't get along. In some cases, parents disinherit their children in an attempt at "tough love" due to an addiction, bad money management skills or disappointment with some aspect of a child's life.
If this happens in your life, you may consider disinheriting your child. This may seem like a logical conclusion to your relationship issues, but before you do it, you may want to consider it carefully.
Do you really want to do this?
That may seem like an odd question, but it is a valid one. Once you disinherit a child, it is difficult to undo after your death. Even if you want to change your mind at some point later in your life, it may not be possible if the state of California would not consider you of sound mind and able to make informed decisions for yourself. At that point, it would be too late.
Examine your motivations for wanting to disinherit your child. Do you want your child to do something and are threatening to take away an inheritance if he or she fails to comply? Do you fear that your child is not fiscally responsible enough for an inheritance? Do you know for sure that the relationship is irretrievably broken? If you think that you might reconcile at some point in the future, then you may want to find an alternative to disinheritance.
Perhaps you could set up a trust to hold the inheritance until a certain event occurs. You could also put a provision in a trust that allows the trustee to reinstate the estranged child's inheritance if he or she sees fit.
If the answer is yes...
If you decide that the best option for you is to disinherit your child, then you need to do it in writing. If you fail to specifically disinherit someone in your will or trust, he or she may still have the opportunity to receive an inheritance. Not only does putting it in these estate planning documents discourage a contest, it also makes it clear to everyone, including the court if necessary, that not providing for that child after your death was an intentional act, not an oversight.
When you do create or update your will or trust to reflect your wishes, you will also need to review and possibly update any accounts with beneficiary designations to make sure that child is not listed. If he or she is listed as a beneficiary on these types of accounts (which include life insurance policies and retirement accounts, among others), proceeds from the account will go to him or her regardless of what your will or trust say.