Anyone who makes a will has the ability to impose conditions on the distribution of the will, provided these do not conflict with existing legal principles. While this is a commonly used right, it can also create problems for the executors of your will and lead to an estate dispute.
These difficulties have been highlighted in a recent court case which demonstrated just how important it is to get the right support when drafting any conditionality into your will.
The case involved a man's will, in which he left a large portion of his estate in a trust for his four grandchildren. There was one condition placed on the distribution of the trust - that the beneficiaries would only be able to access the funds once they turned 45.
While this seems like a fairly straightforward request, the executors of the estate requested a judgment from the court on whether it would be possible to divide the trust before then. If not, the executors also sought clarification on whether the trust could be split as each child turned 45 or whether it must wait until all the children had achieved that age.
In the end, the judge ruled that the estate was unable to be split until the grandchildren reached the age of 45, rather than distributing the will immediately. However, the court also ruled that the distribution of the estate did not need to rely on all of the beneficiaries reaching that age and could be split as each one becomes eligible.
The judge's ruling in this case highlights the importance of ensuring that any conditionality in a will is correctly worded and explained, as these decisions can easily lead to an estate dispute.
This isn't the first time the restrictions imposed by a will have been contested in court either. The same principle was involved in a recent case in which a man demanded that the beneficiaries of his will change their religion in order to access a share of his estate.
Both of these cases highlight the care that individuals need to take when drafting a will, and the various restrictions that can be placed on beneficiaries.
If you want to know more about contesting a will, or want to draft your own will, make sure you talk to a wills and estates lawyer. They can offer advice that is tailored to your situation, especially when it comes to any conditionality within a will.