Can you use a will to control from beyond the grave?

No, don’t need answer fast, nor is this something I intend to do. It’s just based on idle musings during my day off. My knowledge of wills comes entirely from TV and movies, so it’s probably less than accurate.

Is it legal to use a will to compel changes in behavior? For example, can one stipulate that an heir must quit alcohol and/or drugs as a condition to receive the inheritance? Can one force a wayward child to attend church services in order to get the cash? Can a parent state that the child will not inherit unless he/she divorces a disliked spouse? Can an heir be threatened with being disinherited if he/she contests the will?

Considering how controlling and domineering some parents are in life, I wonder how much, if any, control they can exert after death.

And as a second question - anyone ever have this happen to them or personally know someone it happened to? Do share…

Someone else will step in with specifics, but pretty much - no. Rule against perpetuities.

NPR’s This American Life had an episode on this last year. I only remember the one where heirs had to run a sub 8:00 mile to inherit. Having trouble searching the archives on my phone.

If my son John Willis Idiot has, effective one year after my death, divorced the harlot known as Susan Gold Digger Idiot, he shall inherit all my estate.
If, one year after my death, he is still married to her, he takes nothing and my estate shall, in its entirety, be given to the-charity-son-hates.

No even close to a perpetuity, but still controling.

I’m from a different jurisdiction, but the basics are likely to be similar across jurisdictions.

This one… maybe. If the assets are placed in a trust with the addict/alcoholic named as a trust beneficiary and giving trustees direction to wind up the trust when beneficiary has cleaned up his act? Possibly and probably.

If not in the form of a trust its likely to be unenforceable.

No. This is basically religious compulsion and would be against public policy, irrespective of the age of the beneficiary. The child would receive the cash free of any such condition.

No. Attempting to break up a marriage is against public policy and would be disallowed.

No. It possible other jurisdictions may upheld such a prohibition under certain circumstances.

While I suspect the ‘can make them dump drugs, but can’t force them to dump spouse’ may well be the case, I have known spouses who I would consider more toxic than bourbon.

“It’s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack…”

To paraphrase Louis CK (on basically any sort of last requests), “Fuck you, you’re dead. That means you don’t matter anymore. I’m not going to run errands for you after you’re dead.”

If you would like a book on the subject, I am reading Beyond the Grave by Gerald Condon and recommend it.

www.amazon.com/Beyond-Grave-Revised-Updated-Children/dp/0062336223

Wow. Old Man Idiot was a bit of a prick, wasn’t he?

This supposed to be a link to Amazon item 0062336223

Geez, that Dinsdale has his head up his ass. Ignore him, and listen to someone who has some clue what they’re talking about!

It is my understanding that a perpetuity is defined as an issue that cannot be resolved within the lifetime of any party to the estate.

Unborn Grandmother, Fertile Octogenarian - all those wonderful creatures lurking in the recesses of lawyer’s brains.

Any time someone throws his weight around by claiming to be a lawyer, call bullshit if he can’t’ tell, in fifteen seconds, what the rule against perpetuities is. EVERY lawyer can recite The Rule, as can any law student who has taken the conveyancing class.

“Property rights must vest, if at all, within lives in being, plus twenty-one years.”

Don’t get me started on the exceptions, like the Precocious Infant or the Fertile Octogenarian rule.

A Supreme Court justice called the rule “A technicality-ridden legal nightmare and a dangerous instrumentality in the hands of most members of the bar.”

Maybe some of you legal beagles can explain why Girard College (a residential school in Philadelphia) had to go to court to void Girard’s stipulation that the college was limited to “poor white male orphans”. Is this not a perpetuity? Similar question on the Barnes Museum.

Sloppy drafting. What if he divorced her, but remarried her within one year of will-writer’s death? He would meet the first clause, but not the second.

Plus, even if this was legal on its face, I’m not sure how it could be written to keep John and Susan from legally divorcing effective one year minus one day, then re-marrying on one year plus one day.

Um - I never took Stiffs and gifts, and this is just one of countless principles this lawyer has forgotten in the decades since law school. Unless I used that 15 seconds to google… Yeah, I’d bomb the holder in due course rule as well.

No lawyer knows more about more areas of the law than one who has recently passed the bar. But there is little reason to remember specifics about areas you don’t practice. There is one specific area of the law in which i know just about as much as anyone. But countless areas in which I have only a fleeting awareness - or am entirely ignorant.

Accepting that I know nothing about either case and am treating them both as a hypothetical, rather than actual legal advice,

The Rule against Perpetuities is about land, primarily. The title to a piece of land can’t be floating around indefinitely due to remainders and reversions in the will. It has to vest within a life in being and 21 years.

However, that’s different from a condition on a bequest, which says how the assets in the bequest are to be used.

In this case, the title to land vested in the College long ago, so the Rule is satisfied. There is no uncertainty in who owns the land.

Instead, the testator put a condition on how the bequest was to be used. That doesn’t affect the title to the land, so it doesn’t offend the Rule.

Or the lawyer might say: “The Legislature abolished the Rule in my jurisdiction years ago, so I know nothing about it.”

You can’t assume that the law is universal.

I know of a family where the father put a (very large) amount of money into a trust that is distributed to his heirs (to seven generations) based on their religious proclivities (or at least this is what I have been told). While the arrangement has always struck me as being vulnerable (though IANAL) it also occurs to me that as long as the trustees are on board, it would be difficult to challenge a trust that has likely been directed to fight any such challenges using the assets of the trust.

As others have commented, this type of clause would be struck down as contrary to public policy. Courts won’t uphold clauses that break up a marriage and won’t allow a testator that much control from beyond the grave.