30 June 2022

Making gifts conditional in a will

By Jennifer Taylor, Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

Many gifts made in a will simply allow the recipient of the gift to receive their money, or other assets, outright once you have died. A conditional gift is one which the recipient will only receive if a certain condition is met.

The condition might be contingent on the death of a beneficiary. For example, if money is left to a son, daughter, or sibling, you may want to make sure that it passes to their children if they were to die.

Alternatively, the condition could be something which is not guaranteed. You might want to leave money to grandchildren, but only if they obtain certain qualifications or attend university. You may want to leave them a car on condition that they pass their driving test.

Some people leave a sum of money to a friend on condition they care for a pet. Or a payment might be made to an executor as a ‘thank you’ for administering an estate.

Conditional gifts are often referred to as ‘contingent gifts’ as they rely on the occurrence of the specified contingency.

Conditions may not be met

A gift attached to a less probable condition should be made with extra caution, and you should always give thought to the possibility that the condition may never happen and how you would like the gift to be distributed if the condition is not met.

Many people choose to leave money to young beneficiaries only once they have reached a certain age. This might be, for example, 18, 21, 25, or any other age.

Making gifts conditional on speculative assumptions, such as making a gift conditional on a grandchild attending university can be risky, as it might be less probable that your grandchild will go to university rather than them simply living until they are 25.

Trusts

A conditional gift may also be in the form of a trust. It is common for couples who have children from previous relationships to include in their wills a life interest trust for each other. Typically, the ultimate aim is for the money, or assets, to pass to their own children after their partner has died. The children, therefore, are the recipients of a gift which is conditional upon the death of the partner.

Advantages of conditional giving

Gifts which are conditional upon the beneficiary reaching a certain age may protect an inheritance, as many parents and grandparents share the view that their children would be less likely to make sensible investments with their inheritance at 18 than they might at 25.

A gift which is conditional on a beneficiary’s divorce, if the relationship is already rocky, ensures that your assets do not end up in the hands of a loved one’s ex-spouse.

How can we help?

Our solicitors can advise you on preparing a will in a way that enables your assets to be left in the way that you intend. For further information, please contact Jennifer Taylor on 01553 778913 or email jennifer.taylor@hayes-storr.com.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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