Having a will is important, but it's just as important that the will be legal. All last will and testaments must be submitted and accepted by the county probate court. The already slow pace of most probate processes may be slowed even further when the will contains a bequest that may be illegal, amoral, or unclear. Read on and learn more about what not to include when addressing your beneficiaries.
What Is a Conditional Bequest?
Property may be left to a loved one easily by mentioning them in a will. Things can get sticky, though, when the bequest is attached to a condition. For example, you might want to leave money to a charity foundation. That is all well and good; however, if you say that the charity must use the funds for only certain expenses, that is a condition. If you go even further and ask that the funds are used to only help people belonging to a certain demographic, that is even more problematic. When a bequest has conditions that violate one of the rules below, the provision may be struck down. In some cases, however, the probate court could rule that the entire will is null.
Here are several types of conditions that may not be honored.
- Against the Law – You might be surprised to find that some bequests require the beneficiary to commit a crime in order to receive their inheritance. You cannot suggest a beneficiary commit fraud or violent acts to inherit.
- Moral Acts – You also cannot ask a beneficiary to commit immoral acts like, for example, breaking up another relationship, marrying a certain person, or that they change their sexual orientation. It's unfortunately common for some to declare that their spouse cannot inherit anything if they remarry, for instance.
- Impossible Acts – Another problematic issue might be conditions involving those who are no longer alive. For example, proposing that funds be provided to a person only if they take care of another person for at least ten years going forward. Probate judges can strike down provisions that are deemed impossible to accomplish.
- Unclear Conditions – Some people, particularly those that make out their own wills (holographic wills), may err by including conditions that are difficult to understand or vaguely worded. For example, the condition might ask that a beneficiary attend a highly-respected university with the inheritance. Who is to say what that means?
The best way to avoid problems with conditions is to leave them out. However, if you must include a condition, speak to an estate or probate lawyer for guidance on how to include it and not create problems for your loved ones after you pass.