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Should You Contest a Will That Exercises Dead Hand Control?


It can be hard to lose a beloved family member. It can be even harder to find out that you were included in the will, but only if certain conditions were met. This happens in many cases. For example, the deceased may require that the beneficiary be a certain religion, marry a certain person, work in a certain career, graduate from a certain school or be alcohol- or drug-free.

This is called dead hand control. This type of control is allowed in wills and trusts, since benefactors—those with the money and other assets—have the right to give as they please. No person has the right to receive, or be a beneficiary. However, many people choose to contest a will if they feel the deceased is being unfair.

What is Dead Hand Control?

Dead hand control refers to the deceased including a beneficiary only if they meet certain conditions. The deceased may exercise certain controls to ensure that beneficiaries are on their best behavior. In some cases, the beneficiaries may have trouble handling money in the past, so the deceased may want the beneficiary to “work” for their inheritance.

Dead hand control is, for the most part, allowed as long as it does not violate public policy. This means that the deceased cannot ask a beneficiary to carry out a crime or do anything illegal in order to receive their inheritance. Some restraints also are not valid, such as forcing a beneficiary to never marry or if they do, they must marry someone of a certain race.  Requiring someone to practice a certain religion is also not valid, but the deceased can require the beneficiary to marry someone of a certain religion. Promoting property destruction, divorce or other family strife are conditions that are generally deemed invalid as well.

Should You Fight It?

Conditional bequests often cause pain to a family. Many people do not want to have to meet a certain condition in order to receive an inheritance. However, the estate administrator will need proof that you met the condition. For example, if you were ordered to graduate from a certain college, you will need transcripts or a diploma showing you met this requirement.

If the request seems immoral, illegal or just plain unfair, you may be able to fight it. If you have the financial resources, hiring a probate lawyer may be your best bet, especially if you stand to lose an inheritance of six figures or more.

Seek Legal Help

Many people create wills and intend to distribute assets based on conditional terms, such as religion and who a family member marries. While you can’t contest a will simply because you don’t like the terms, there may be a way around it so you can get the inheritance you have been planning on.

Fort Lauderdale probation litigation attorney Edward J. Jennings, P.A. can help you with your probate issues. See what options are available to you. Schedule a consultation by calling our office at 954-764-4330 or filling out the online form.




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