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Estate planning cannot be discriminatory

When an Ohio resident thinks about estate planning, he or she is usually under the impression that the wishes laid out within the estate planning documents will be adhered to when the time comes for that plan to be called into action. In certain cases, however, that may not be the final outcome. It is important to understand that in order for a will to be valid, it must be in line with public policy. A recent case examines how discrimination can impact one's estate planning outcome.

The case centers on a father and his two daughters. After the man divorced, one daughter remained with him while the other lived overseas with her mother. From that point forward, he never heard from that child again. He remained close to his other daughter, however, paying for her education and giving her exclusive rights to use one of his homes.

That all changed when the daughter announced that she was pregnant, and that the father was Caucasian. Her own father, who is black, immediately withdrew his support. From that point on, he refused to communicate with his daughter and would have nothing to do with his biological grandson. He also told friends and acquaintances that he was disinheriting her because she had a child of mixed race.

In the end, he left his estate to his estranged daughter, simply because her children were fathered by a black man. He was open with others about this choice, and the daughter who was disinherited decided to contest his will. Because she was able to provide witnesses that testified about her father's discriminatory action, she was able to prevail in court. The man's estate was evenly divided between his two daughters. The case demonstrates to readers in Ohio and across the nation that in order to be effective, estate planning must not go against public policy, especially when it comes to discrimination.

Source:, "Estate planning and the legal system: Part I", Nadia Campion, Jan. 26, 2016

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