Asserting Control from Beyond the Grave: Conditional Bequests

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.

Conditional Bequests

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.

Talk to Our Estate Planning Attorneys

Since 2011, SJF Law Group has been helping clients in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties protect their families through estate planning, probate administration, and trust administration. Our law firm is pleased to offer both in-person and virtual appointments throughout the State of Florida, ensuring our services are accessible no matter where you are located. We pride ourselves on combining the personalized service and attention of a boutique law firm with the talent and legal acumen of a large firm. Our experienced estate planning attorneys work hard to ensure that your wishes will be followed, and your loved ones taken care of when you are gone.

If you want to discuss your specific situation with our experienced estate planning lawyers, please contact SJF Law Group at 954-580-3690. You can also fill out our contact form. We take pride in responding to inquiries in a timely manner.

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