Leaving a conditional gift in your Will can sometimes cause unintentional problems for loved ones in the future, which is why a gift with conditions attached needs careful consideration.
“You may have the best possible motives for leaving a conditional gift in your Will,” explains Nina Sperring, Solicitor and Director at Bartletts Solicitors.
“However, occasionally things can go awry with conditional gifts, when the beneficiaries fail to meet the conditions and as a result forfeit the gifts. The failure to fulfil conditions can be due to a number of reasons, including an unawareness of the conditions in the first place.
“Best intentions are not always enough when it comes to Wills and conditional gifts, and it’s important you regularly review and update your Will to avoid future issues arising for loved ones after you die.”
What Happens When The Conditions Of A Gift Aren’t Met?
The importance of having an up-to-date Will when conditional gifts are involved, is highlighted by a recent High Court case.
This High Court case resulted in two adult children missing out on their share of a farming partnership their father would otherwise have had due to a failure to meet the condition set by their grandfather in his Will that they didn’t even know about.
Background To The Case
Mr Hines was the owner of a family farm and left his interest in the farm to his wife and two of his children, John and Philip, split equally between the three of them, in his Will.
The gift to John and Philip was made with a condition, however. The condition was that within nine months of his death, each had to pay their brother Basil and sister Beryl £15,000. If this condition was not met, their inheritance would pass to Basil and Beryl.
Condition Not Met
Mr Hines’s death meant the time limit on the conditional gift was 4 October 1992.
John failed to meet the deadline and his interest passed straight to Basil and Beryl.
Philip, however, had died two years before his father, in 1990, so obviously could not meet the condition stipulated in his grandfather’s Will.
Philip’s children, Judith and Janet, brought the case to the High Court claiming they should have their father’s share of the farm. They argued they should either inherit free from the condition imposed on their father in the Will or be excused of their obligation due to their ignorance of the condition.
The judge ruled that they shouldn’t inherit, as the condition within Mr Hines’s Will was very clear and that the children of a beneficiary are bound by the same conditions as the beneficiary. Furthermore, a beneficiary’s ignorance of a condition or the ignorance of the beneficiary’s children does not make that condition impossible to fulfil.
Hence, Judith and Janet did not inherit and their share of the farming estate passed to Basil and Beryl.
Had Mr Hines updated his Will after Philip’s death, he could have made his condition surrounding the gift for his two sons clearer and Philip’s children would likely have been able to meet the condition and inherit accordingly.
How We Can Help You With Conditional Gifts
It is important to write down all your wishes for loved ones in your Will, including any conditional gifts you want to leave to beneficiaries. However, it is even more important to ensure your Will is carefully drafted by a professional solicitor and that you review and update it on a regular basis, especially where conditional gifts are concerned.
We’ll ensure all your wishes for your estate are detailed in your Will, including any gifts with conditions attached, and that your Will is as legally watertight and current as possible, to help avoid disputes down the line.
To speak to one of our specialist Wills and probate solicitors about making or updating your Will to incorporate a conditional gift, contact us on 0800 988 3674 or 01244 311 633 or email firstname.lastname@example.org