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Suppose that a person (let us refer to the person as T for Testator) wants to leave someone (who we will refer to as B for beneficiary) say $100K in a will, which is well below the value of T's current assets. But by the time T dies, the estate may be worth much less, perhaps even less than the $100K. Could B say something like "I leave to B the lesser of $100K or 25% of the estate".... Is there a standard for how to express this?

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    The standard is - consult a lawyer who will turn your wishes into a legally sound will.
    – Dale M
    Apr 1 at 21:31
  • If the will is otherwise relatively uncomplicated, there is no slightest need for a lawyer. If this is in teh US, several well-respected firms swell software that will draft a perfectly valid will in response to a series of plain language questions, with languish tailored to the specific state of residence. Quite a few lawyer actually use such programs and make minor changes to the output for basic wills. Apr 1 at 23:09
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The best practice is to regularly review and revise a will, and if the size of the prospective estate has changed significantly, change specific bequests as needed. (Changes should also be made if births and deaths make changes a good idea.) But this is a counsel of perfection in many cases. Many people find it hard enough to make a will at all, much less review it on a regular basis. Moreover the Testator (T) might fear that s/he will not be competent to make a new will when such action is needed. This is a reasonable concern for T to have.

A bequest using a formula such as "I leave to B the lesser of $100K or 25% of the estate" is perfectly valid. One should be careful that bequests specifying percentages of the estate do not add up to more than 100%. (It is fine if they are less. The residuary legatee(s) get whatever is left over.)

A comment suggests that the will be drafted by a lawyer. While this is always possible, if the will is otherwise relatively uncomplicated, there is not the slightest need for a lawyer. If this is in the US, several well respected firms sell software that will draft a perfectly valid will in response to a series of plain language questions, with language tailored to the specific state of residence. Quite a few lawyers actually use such programs and make minor changes to the output for basic wills. I used one to draft my own will. I suspect that such software is available for other countries, but I cannot verify that.

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  • "if the will is otherwise relatively uncomplicated, there is not the slightest need for a lawyer." I would disagree. One of the things that estate planning lawyers learn with experience is how to draft language unambiguously, and lots of language that seems perfectly clear under the facts existing when a will is written can become ambiguous in the fact pattern that presents itself at death. My rule of thumb is that it typically costs 5x-10x times as much in legal fees to correct bad drafting (if it is possible to do so at all) as it does to do it right the first time with a professional.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 2 at 18:12

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