Should Your Will Come With Conditions?

A will doesn't have to be complicated, and most of the time, you just need to think about the percentage of your estate or the amount each person will receive. Think of the people who you want to benefit from your estate, and decide which percentage they'll get—whether this is a percentage of ownership of a physical asset (like property), a percentage of liquid assets (cash and investments), or both. You may also determine a fixed amount for each person. But sometimes you may feel the need to add some conditions about who gets what.

Unconditional or Conditional 

Many of the bequests you grant in your will are going to be unconditional. The only condition for executing a will is the passing of the will holder, but it's possible to apply conditional bequests to your will.

Reasons for Conditional Bequests

Your reasons for adding conditional bequests to your will are entirely your own. You don't have to justify them to anyone (the individual beneficiary or your family at large). You don't technically even have to notify them. It's your choice, but you may wish for the details to be disclosed only after your passing.

Adding an Incentive

A conditional bequest is typically to give an incentive to a loved one. For example, you may choose to bequeath a fixed amount to a younger family member on the condition that they graduate from college, or that they maintain a certain grade point average. If they fail to meet the condition, an alternative form of disbursement is triggered—such as the amount or percentage going to another person, or even to charity.

Reasonable Conditions

You can be as specific as you like with these conditions, however, you must realize that any conditional bequests can't violate the law or be viewed as discriminatory. Provided your conditions are reasonable and can be fulfilled, you'll want to ensure that they're difficult to challenge.

Securing Your Conditions

It's important to avoid having beneficiaries ignore your wishes and to just challenge your will. For this reason, you should have conditional bequests set by a wills lawyer. They'll be able to advise you about the practicality of your conditions, and whether any modifications are wise. Once decided, they'll be able to word the conditions in a way that makes any legal challenge difficult, if not impossible.

Setting conditions to the bequests in your will is up to you, but should only be done if it's important to you. But because it's important to you, it's crucial that it's done properly. For more information, contact a wills lawyer near you.