As you write your will, you may have concerns about how your beneficiaries will use the assets they inherit. You might even have considered placing certain conditions on their inheritances.
In California, it is generally legal to include a conditional bequest in your estate planning.
Conditions precedent vs. conditions subsequent
A condition precedent is a condition the beneficiary must meet before he or she may inherit, such as reaching adulthood or graduating from school.
A condition subsequent is a condition that may result in the beneficiary forfeiting the inheritance. For example, you might leave property to a loved one on the condition that he or she uses it for a specific purpose.
Limitations on conditional bequests
California law allows conditional bequests with limits. You may not require your beneficiaries to do anything illegal in order to inherit. The court will ignore such conditions.
You may not place restrictions on marriage. Generally, the court will not enforce conditions intended to forbid a beneficiary from getting married. However, you may be able to leave your spouse an inheritance until he or she remarries. In this case, the intention is not to prevent the marriage but rather to support your spouse until then.
Points to consider
Before creating a conditional bequest, consider these factors:
- Intent: Enforceability often depends on your intentions. Your will must make your intentions clear.
- Standards: Be specific about the terms of the inheritance. Make sure your beneficiaries know if and when they have met your conditions.
- Timing: It may take years to know whether the beneficiary has satisfied your conditions. At that point, your executor may not be available to take action.
Before placing conditional bequests in your will, consider your circumstances carefully and seek guidance to ensure that your conditions are reasonable and enforceable.