What can I do to prevent someone from leaving me something in their will?

Generally speaking, in North America: Do I have to take responsibility for things left to me in a will or are their other options?

  • That's not what I'm asking. I'm asking how I can prevent myself from being included in a will. If I was to "just don't get it" I would have already been included. Use case being: a person might leave me something & I would prefer them to proactively choose another person who would not "just leave it". Looking to solve the cause here, not the symptom.
    – admcfajn
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 19:24

4 Answers 4


You don't give an exact jurisdiction, so Im going to give some examples from the US and the UK here (other jurisdictions may differ), but the answer to your question seems to be "yes, you can" in the US and UK.

In the US, the process differs somewhat between states, but in general you need to file a written, signed (and notorized in some states) disclaimer with the executor of the estate or probate court within a reasonable timeframe.

To disclaim an inheritance, you must file a written disclaimer that states your irrevocable intention to refuse the bequest. A disclaimer usually must be signed, notarized, and filed with the probate court and/or the executor of the last will in a timely manner (within nine months of the death of the decedent or, if the disclaiming beneficiary is a minor, after he or she reaches the age of majority).


In the UK, you can file either a variation or a disclaimer depending on the situation:

There are two methods of refusing an inheritance: variations and disclaimers. To be effective for tax purposes, both must be in writing and executed within two years of the date of death (although a disclaimer can be effective to refuse a gift, even if it is made by the conduct of the beneficiary, rather than in writing).


After rereading the question and some of the comments, I note that you are asking a mixture of questions - the above answers the "do I have to take responsibility for something someone left me in a will" question, but you also seem to want to know whether you can do this proactively.

Unfortunately, in most jurisdictions, wills and bequests do not need to be made public until they are executed, so someone can put anything they like into a will and you won't know about it until their death (or at any other point the will becomes public).

Restraining orders et al won't work in this regard, as the subject will be dead and thus cannot be punished for breaching the order.

Your best course of action is to legally disclaim the bequest once it becomes your responsibility - if you do this, you are protected from any negative consequences (taxation, ownership et al) of receiving the inheritance.

  • @moo I'd say between the two of us, we've pretty much got it covered, but we both know that would be giving you too little credit. PS You can hide the links by clicking on the little chain on the editing bar. [ ]s will appear in your answer. Whatever you type between the [ ]s will become the link, like the [one of them] in my answer below.
    – Just a guy
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 19:59
  • @Justaguy upvoted you and I agree :) Re the links, I know but I prefer to keep the links visible when they are associated with a large quotation - its just my quoting style rather than making the entire quotation a link or breaking out a pointless site name just to create a link, but thanks for the tip.
    – user28517
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 20:02
  • Further note, the syntax used is called markdown & we can do more than links with it, there's all manner of document formatting (lists, italics, code) available learnxinyminutes.com/docs/markdown & thanks very much to you both :)
    – admcfajn
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 20:48

What can I do to prevent someone from leaving me something in their will?

Nothing. Allowing other people to legally change someone's will defeats the purpose of a will: To express the writer's last wishes. (That is why the full title is a "Last Will & Testament").

Do I have to take responsibility for things left to me in a will or are there other options?

No! You do not have to accept an inheritance. The legal process for rejecting an inheritance is called "disclaiming." It happens often enough that there are plenty of nice summaries of the process on-line. Your next step should probably be to read one of them.


I (happily) haven't practiced Wills & Trusts law in more than a decade, but that law rarely changes, so I feel OK not double checking everything, but...

I understand where you're coming from. I have family that I cut myself off from years ago. I don't want anything from them. But mentally walk through how impossible it would be for me to proactively make sure I'm not in a will (not that I think I'm there :D).

You can write a will on the back of a napkin on your deathbed (not recommended!) Many states don't require any type of registration of the will until after the person passes (at which point it's too late to do anything!) So a person can create a will in a few minutes, at any point (assuming they are 'of sound mind'), and other than getting a couple strangers to verify identity, they never even need to tell anyone they made the will. I can't even comprehend a process that would allow you to block someone from putting you in their will.

Let's pretend that a restraining order would work (it wouldn't - I can't imagine a judge issuing a TPO or PPO for this purpose, and the judge would likely be pretty irritated to even be hearing the case, but for the sake of argument let's say you could get a restraining order) - if the person secretly puts you in their will anyway, and the will isn't public until after their death, how would you enforce it?

The "can I sue for..." is the most common question people ask attorneys. And the general answer is "probably, but what do you hope to get out of it?" Filing a lawsuit is simply writing some words on a document, signing it, and paying the money for the clerk to put it in the computer. The clerk doesn't care if it's a real lawsuit, has any chance of winning, or if you're suing a cow. The clerk is going to file it and let the judge deal with telling the person there's simply no remedy. And if there is a remedy, you still need a way to enforce it.

Regarding trying to force someone to not place you in their will, I see no way to realistically enforce it. And if it can't be enforced, any legal remedies would simply be a waste of your time, money, and energy.

HOWEVER - you can be passive-aggressive about it. Let's assume there's a person who wants to leave something to me in their will (that I don't want and I'm so adamant I am asking if there are ways to legally force them to not include me!) There must be something that would irritate them to no end. Make it known that that's what you'll do with the money, and you can't wait. Maybe you stay in the will, but maybe it's enough for the person to say forget it. Worst case scenario is that you actually end up in the will anyway, at which point you can disclaim the gift, or not - it's up to you.


  • If you are trans and the person wanting to gift you is very anti-LGBTQ, you make sure everyone knows you want the money for surgery.
  • If you are very conservative and the person wanting to gift you in very liberal, you make sure everyone knows you will donate every dime to Trump's reelection.
  • If you are liberal and the person wanting to gift you is very religious, you make sure everyone knows you will donate all of the money to Planned Parenthood.

If the person who you want to block from giving something to you was eligible to get a restraining order from you, you could do that.

Otherwise, no. You don't have to physically accept whatever the person leaves you though.

  • How does a restraining order factor into this? Those typically deal with physical proximity and communication, I don't see how it could bar someone from naming someone else in their will. Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 19:32
  • Giving you something would be contacting you.
    – Putvi
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 19:32
  • I'm highly skeptical that a restraining order would continue to apply to a dead person. Even if it did somehow violate the order, there's no one to prosecute. Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 19:35
  • The act of the person arranging contact with you through a third party would be illegal under the order.
    – Putvi
    Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 19:36
  • But this person is arranging for future contact that would only occur upon expiration of the restraining order. There's no contact while the order is active, only contact once the restraining order is void. I don't see how instructing a lawyer to send a letter once the restraining order is dropped could violate the restraining order - there is no conduct that's in violation of the restraining order. Commented Nov 26, 2019 at 19:47

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