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Can I make gifts in my will conditional?

On Behalf of | Jul 10, 2018 | estate administration & probate |

Drafting a will to pass on your inheritance to your children is sometimes not a clear cut proposition. Some parents worry that their children will squander their inheritance on frivolous purchases, but at the same time they could never bear the thought of leaving their children with nothing. A simpler choice for Indiana parents with these concerns is to attach conditions for their children to receive the inheritance. According to Findlaw, you can make passing down assets in your will conditional, but there are caveats.

Basically, the kinds of conditions you can place on gifts take the form of general encouragement for the heir to perform or not perform a certain action. If you are concerned that your child is a spendthrift, you can require money to be spent in certain ways, such as on a place to live. If you want your child to complete a college education, you can set aside some of the inheritance for college bills.

Problems arise when people spell out conditions that no court will recognize. A parent may want their child to get married, or a parent might believe that a child’s spouse is not a good match and wish their child to divorce that spouse. However, attaching conditions for a child to marry or divorce is a complete non-starter, as no judge will enforce such provisions. Similarily, a will cannot dictate that an heir change his or her religion to receive assets.

Additionally, you cannot put a condition that requires the recipient to do something illegal. Many testors will not actually do this, but every now and then someone might place a condition that can run afoul of the law. For example, someone might want their heir to destroy the house the testor owned with fire or otherwise destroy an asset in an illegal way. A testor also cannot leave money to an heir with the requirement to buy an illegal product. Any will that asks a recipient to do something illegal will not be recognized as a legal document.

Placing legally recognized conditions in your will is not the end of the story. You would also have to consider who would enforce these conditions. The best scenario is to name a person as an executor to your will that is trustworthy and will not bend to demands from your heirs to loosen the conditions listed in your will.

Keep in mind this article is written to educate readers on estate planning and does not provide legal advice.