Can wills contain conditions which must be fulfilled in order for certain clauses to have effect? For example:

  1. Uncle Fred wants his house to go to his niece, on the condition that the niece agree not to shack up there out of wedlock. What if, additionally, Uncle Fred stipulates that the house is to go to his nephew otherwise, including the case where the niece originally gets it and then violates the terms of the inheritance?

  2. A husband leaves his inheritance to his brother, on the condition that his brother marry his widow and remain married to her for as long as they both should live. What if, additionally, the husband adds a clause stipulating that the estate is given to his children otherwise, including the case where the brother becomes divorced from the widow?

  3. The creepy old lady down the street leaves a house to a group of friends, on the condition that they spend one night in it - and survive! Bwa ha ha ha

This question was inspired by this one on leaving a wife/girlfriend in your will.

1 Answer 1


You can put conditions on bequests (subject to other laws that might require you to provide for children etc.), however, these must be antecedent to the gift: once a gift is given you can't call it back.

Of course, you could set up a trust that owns the bequest with rules for when and how the beneficiaries can utilise them that effectively do what you ask. However, this is a morbid and sick way of trying to control people from beyond the grave. The acceptable way to do this is to come back as a ghost, vampire, zombie etc. instead.

  • 1
    Great answer! So in my examples, the niece couldn't lose the house once accepted? And the brother can't lose the inheritance once divorced? And the kids can keep the house even if they leave at midnight? But a trust could enforce all the conditions (even the ones that aren't antecedent)? Thanks!
    – Patrick87
    Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 13:48
  • 6
    A trust can't take back gifts either. But you could set up a situation where, say, the house belongs to the trust and the niece gets to live in it as long as she meets the conditions. This is rather different from a gift; for example, she can't sell the house. (But if she could it would render the whole thing ineffective anyway.) Commented Nov 7, 2015 at 13:55

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