Back in 1937, a man named Frank Smith wrote a non-negotiable clause in his will. He pledged to leave all his remaining possessions to his daughter — but only if she threw out her ‘immoral husband’ and prevented him benefitting from the inheritance.
If she refused, Smith said, the money should go to the Exchequer.
Legal firms have seen a rise in such ‘trust clauses’, or conditions specifying when an inheritance is paid, as parents and grandparents attempt to control their wealth from beyond the grave.
Legal firms have seen a rise in such ‘trust clauses’, or conditions specifying when an inheritance is paid
Experts say soaring property prices, longer lifespans and a rise in second and third marriages are fuelling the trend.
Many conditions are typical. Parents might state an inheritance will only be given if it is spent on property or education, or their children can only touch it from a certain age. This is known as a bare trust and is one of the most common clauses.
Carl Christensen, from freewills.co.uk, also regularly sees people leave wealth or property to their surviving spouse, but on the condition the money is repaid to the estate if they remarry or live with another partner.
However, some stipulations are more unusual. Mr Christensen says a recent will stated no inheritance would be given to four grandchildren until they were baptised.
They were in line for around £20,000 each, but he says some of them are not yet baptised and are not keen on the prospect.
One man even left himself £100,000 should he be reincarnated — although it is unclear how he would prove his identity and claim his money should he return.
Elaine Roche, director of Solicitors for the Elderly and a partner at Kuits Solicitors, says she arranged a will in which a nephew would only get his inheritance from a childless relative if he changed his name by deed poll to continue the family name.
No money until they turn 28
Erin Moroney wants to split her wealth between her sister, niece and nephew
Erin Moroney wants to split her wealth between her sister, niece and nephew.
But she has stated in her will that the teenagers cannot access the money until they are 28, unless it is for education.
Erin, 48, right, hopes that at 28 they will have a career and be less likely to squander the money.
She says: ‘As a photographer’s agent in my 20s I’d receive ad hoc payments of between £5,000 and £15,000 on top of my salary, which I’d blow on shopping. When I turned 28 I really regretted how much I’d splurged.’
Now running a snack business, she says her niece and nephew know about the inheritance, adding: ‘Every time they are cheeky I tell them I’m leaving all my money to a cat!’
A rise in DIY will-writing services has made it easier for people to include wackier clauses, but solicitors say there is also a growing trend for more traditional conditions, particularly where children are concerned.
Ashleigh Kelly, from Slater Heelis Solicitors, says: ‘Parents often feel the importance of their children being ready to receive a large sum of money and to have the means to manage it sensibly and effectively.’
Typically, parents who delay their children’s inheritance state they can only have the money when they reach 21 or 25, but this can also stretch to middle age.
In some cases, the money may only be released if the beneficiaries achieve certain life goals, such as buying a home, setting up a business and getting married. Legacies are also often left for friends and neighbours on the condition they care for pets.
Parents might state an inheritance will only be given if it spent on property or education, or they can only touch it when they reach a certain age
Some clauses are included in wills to protect wealth from gold-digging spouses.
James Ward, head of private clients at the law firm Kingsley Napley, says: ‘Where the level of wealth being passed on is significant, we increasingly see the clause that if large sums of money are paid to children they should have a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement in place.’
These documents set out how money will be shared in the event of a divorce. Straight-up exclusions are also very common.
One in ten wills created on freewills.co.uk deliberately leaves someone out — typically estranged children, but also current husbands and wives.
Conditional gifts in wills can only be paid if the beneficiary does what is required. This is legally binding as long as the terms are clear. For example, a time limit is set.
Conditions: Solicitors say they have seen a rise in ‘trust clauses’ as parents and grandparents attempt to control their wealth from beyond the grave
It would be difficult to challenge such a clause unless you were being asked to do something outrageous, such as break the law.
A letter of wishes is more informal and simply outlines what the will-writer would like their loved ones to spend the money on.
Fulfilling the wishes of the will-writer falls on the chosen executors or trustees.
If the conditions are not met within the stated time frame the money goes into what’s known as the ‘residue’ of the estate.
Usually in the will there is a residue clause which names someone who will inherit ‘everything else’ after gifts, debts, funeral expenses and inheritance tax is paid.
Gary Rycroft, a solicitor at Joseph A. Jones & Co, says: ‘The executors must hold on to the money until the conditions are met.
If there is no time limit, the beneficiaries of the residue could come forward and fight for the money they believe they are due.’
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