UK will condition
December 30, 2005 1:45 PM   Subscribe

I am watching ITV's Midsomer Murders at the moment, wherein Detective Chief Inspector John Nettles just heard that a 20 year old student Aidan is told he will inherit £100,000 if he reaches 21 as a non smoker. Are these Will clauses legitimate in UK law? Or are they a convenient dramatic device, long superceded in legal practice?
posted by dash_slot- to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Under Scottish law, you can basically put whatever you like in a will, so something like that smoking clause - if properly worded - would be kosher.

There are, however, certain rights that next of kin may be seen to have, especially where a will leaves any ambiguity.
posted by Marquis at 1:57 PM on December 30, 2005

Under Scottish law, you can basically put whatever you like in a will

Sure - but is it enforceable?
posted by dash_slot- at 2:10 PM on December 30, 2005

I believe the executor of the will (usually a lawyer) would have to determine whether the person mentioned in the will had adhered to the conditions. It just depends on how far they're willing to go to enforce these things. Generally, these types of clauses would be easy to check on ("Must marry before 25"). Of course, IANAL.
posted by djgh at 3:32 PM on December 30, 2005

IANAL, but isn't it the case that in common law countries (such as the UK) that will conditions can be enforced, whereas in civil law countries such as France, the next of kin have absolute rights?
posted by wackybrit at 3:34 PM on December 30, 2005

The plot rings a bell--oh: a case, Hamer v. Sidway, which most U.S. law students read in Contracts class. But it's a classic situation.
posted by Phred182 at 4:38 PM on December 30, 2005

Dash, I'll take a swing at it. Once a law student, not a lawyer. (And the kind of lawyer I'm not is U.S., at that.) It might be seen under common law as an offer on behalf of the estate, creating in Aidan the power of acceptance. If he then accepts by foregoing smoking for the period, he would have a case and could seek enforcement against the estate. The impulse to try to control people's conduct through a will must be common.
posted by Phred182 at 4:54 PM on December 30, 2005

I don't have a reference for the UK, but in the US according to
There are also a few legal limitations on what you can do in a will. For example, you cannot leave a gift that is contingent on the marriage, divorce, or change of religion of a recipient. You can, however, try to influence lesser matters. For example, you could leave money "to Jeremy, if and when he goes to college." Making such conditional gifts, however, usually opens a can of worms -- who will enforce the will's conditions, and for how long?
posted by mbrubeck at 5:25 PM on December 30, 2005

Because no one else has mentioned it, Brewster's Millions is a plenty fun movie showcasing this very dilemna. "Monty must spend $30 M in 30 days in order to inherit $300 million, without telling anyone."

Richard Pryor and John Candy = Good Times.
posted by disillusioned at 3:42 AM on December 31, 2005

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