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Can I place conditions on gifts in a will?

Writing a will is a very important, delicate task. Wills hold great power and help your loved ones understand your wishes for your end of life options and your estate, but they are not magical documents that fix everything. In fact, some of the most common problems that arise with wills are the result of poor understanding of what a will should and should not do.

One particularly difficult issue that often arises in wills occurs when the creator of the will wishes to give a beneficiary a gift bound by certain conditions. Many individuals do not know the reasonable boundaries of such conditions and end up creating a will that will stand up in court, but will probably leave some relatives and loved ones quite frustrated.

For instance, a person may state in a will, "I leave my summer home in Sonoma Valley to Charlie, provided that he end his marriage to that horrible wife of his." Not only is this not the venue to level personal accusations, such a provision is not at all legal. Wills cannot govern another person's choices about marriage, divorce, or religion.

A will can require that a person use a gift for a specific purpose, or that a person would only receive it if and when they complete some milestone, such as graduate college.

When considering how to make the most of your belongings and bring good things to those you care for most deeply, it is always wise to have professional guidance. An experienced lawyer can help you create a strong will that speaks directly to your relationships with your beneficiaries while still standing up to scrutiny in court.

Source: Findlaw, "What Not To Include When Making a Will," accessed Sep. 08, 2017

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