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Austrian woman shreds cash to disinherit heirs

New York residents may be surprised to learn that an Austrian grandmother recently shredded currency equaling $1,020,490 in order to keep her family from inheriting the money. The shredded bits of cash were discovered on her nursing home bed just prior to her death, according to media reports.

Why didn't the grandmother just disinherit her relatives? In many European countries, including Austria, the law says a will must include provisions for certain "mandatory heirs," such as spouses, children and grandchildren. If there is no will, the courts will pass an estate onto the mandatory heirs. So, the grandmother used scissors to try to circumvent the law. However, Austria's central bank is thwarting her wishes. A bank representative said that the shredded money will be replaced and handed over to her mandatory heirs.

In most U.S. states, it is easy to disinherit children by adding a few words to a will. If there is no will, heirs will inherit an estate by statute. It isn't quite as easy to disinherit a spouse, however. Most states demand that a portion of an estate, called an "elective share," be handed over to a surviving spouse even when they have been omitted from the will. That means that people who want to disinherit their spouse must do so through prenuptial agreement or divorce. As for destroying U.S. currency, it's a federal crime.

New York residents in need of an estate plan may wish to consult with an attorney. Legal counsel could carefully prepare wills, trusts and other estate planning documents that ensure an individual's assets are distributed according to their wishes.

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