When you make a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) you get to decide who will receive your property at the time of your death.
You also can choose when they should get their inheritance.
In fact, if you want to, you can even dictate in your Will under what circumstances your heirs will receive or not receive your property.
In other words, you can make a conditional bequest.
A conditional bequest is a bequest that is “conditioned” upon some event or happening.
If a bequest is conditional, it means that before the beneficiary can receive the gift, something must happen —in other words, the “condition precedent” must be fulfilled.
Why would a testator make a bequest conditional? Why not just give the gift to the beneficiary outright?
Well, there can be any number of reasons for making a conditional bequest.
Some of the more common stem from a desire to try to protect a beneficiary from his or her own immaturity or bad behavior.
For example, you may have heard of things like “spendthrift trusts”— trusts that are designed to protect a person from overspending or from giving someone else the ability to take advantage of his/her wealth. Well, conditional bequests—although not trusts — can have much the same effect. A bequest in a Will can be conditioned upon the beneficiary reaching a certain age, or staying sober for a certain length of time, or successfully completing a rehabilitation program. In all of these situations, the condition is designed to protect the beneficiary.
Conditional bequests can also be used to encourage certain behavior. For example, a gift could be conditioned upon a person continuing to work for your company, or getting a certain job, or finishing school.
Whatever the condition of the gift or bequest, the point is that the beneficiary cannot receive his/her inheritance unless and until the condition is met.
The Limits of Conditional Bequests
Although the law generally gives testators wide latitude when it comes to making conditional bequests, it does have its limits.
For example, it is illegal to condition a bequest upon:
- the beneficiary never marrying, or marrying someone, or not marrying a particular person, or person of a particular race
- an intent to promote divorce or family strife
- doing anything illegal
- an intent to thwart creditors
These are just examples of some invalid conditional bequests. There are plenty more. Consult with an experienced estate and probate lawyer to find out more about this.
Not understanding the limits of the law or how to properly phrase a conditional bequest is one reason why most conditional bequests written without the help of an experienced estate and probate lawyer fail.
If you want to make a conditional bequest in your Will, seek out an experienced estate and probate lawyer to get the information you need.
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Don’t leave planning for your future and that of your loved ones to chance. All it takes is one phone call to SJF Law Group to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone. We expertly guide individuals through the complex probate process, and capably handle all aspects of the creation, administration, and settlement of trusts as well. When you work with the estate planning attorneys at SJF Law Group, you get more than just an estate plan: you get peace of mind. Call us at 954-580-3690 or email us at: [email protected] today.