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Leaving Gifts In Your Will With Strings Attached

Some of us would like to do more than just leave property to others after we die. We would like to make sure the property is only used for certain purposes or only given if certain things occur. For these purposes, the law provides a specific device called the conditional gift, which is basically a gift that is delivered according to a will, but with some strings attached. Usually, the beneficiary has to do or accomplish something to get the gift, or upon receiving the gift has to use it for a special purpose or not use it for others.

Condition Precedent

The first of these situations is known as a condition precedent. For example, if you decide to leave your niece $10,000 if she graduates from medical school by 2020, this is a condition precedent. No medical school degree by 2020 means no money. It is also a good idea to explain who gets the money if your niece does not get her degree. That way, the money will be put to a use you require either way.

Condition Subsequent

The second situation is known as a condition subsequent. An example of this would be leaving your house to your son, as long as he agrees never to turn it into a restaurant. If it is turned into a restaurant, your will may dictate that he loses it, and it goes to your daughter. These types of gifts are harder to enforce. If after 20 years your son turns the house into a restaurant and your daughter is no longer around to enforce the will provision, your house may become a restaurant despite your written directions in the will. Conditions precedent are easier to enforce because the heir does not get the gift unless he or she complies with your stated conditions.

Conditions You Cannot Attach

There are certain conditions you cannot attach to a gift in your will. The courts will not enforce any conditions that are illegal. Furthermore, you cannot require someone to marry a specific person, get a divorce, or change his or her religion. However, some courts have enforced provisions that required an heir to marry before a certain date in order to receive a gift. Case decisions vary from state to state, which is why you should consult with a competent attorney in your state if you want to include a conditional gift in your will.