Estate planning can be fun… I love my job because I get to help clients with questions like the one below….
Question….. Is it “legal” to restrict your beneficiaries from getting tattoos in your trust/will?
I recently had clients who were very… “traditional” who were very concerned with their grandchildren’s “wild streak” and self expression. They wanted a clause in their trust that stated that if their grandchildren get a tattoo they forfeit their (rather sizable) inheritance.
This one hits me personally…I’m heavily tattooed….
Is this a serious restriction of their bodily autonomy. Of course…it is…
But… would the potential beneficiaries think that is worth losing inheritance ?
Most importantly Is this allowed?
It sure is. No one is restricting you from getting a tattoo. You're free to do so. Neither is anyone obligated to give you something. You are not entitled to a gift from anyone and the gift giver can put conditions on their gifts.
And here is why..
Answer… It's not uncommon to want to leave conditions on an inheritance—for example, you might want to to leave an adult child money, but only if that child goes through rehab for a substance abuse problem or manages the family business. Can you exert this kind of control from beyond the grave? Probably.
How Wills and Trusts Can Attach Strings to Gifts
Often, it's easiest to use a trust to leave a gift with strings attached. That way, there's someone in charge of trust assets (the trustee) who can decide whether or not to release funds, based on the beneficiary's behavior. For example, if you wanted to reward your grandson for pursuing a college education, you could leave money in trust, and use this kind of conditional bequest language: "I leave $10,000 to my niece Tom Thompson, provided that he enrolls in a four-year college and attends for at least a full academic year before the age of 22." The trustee could give out the money (or not) when she turned 22.
General Rules on Conditional Gifts
Courts try to honor a will-maker's intent as much as they possibly can. They won't, however, enforce a condition that requires a beneficiary to break the law or one that goes against public policy.
Generally, courts use public policy grounds to invalidate provisions that encourage immoral or harmful acts, or acts that can hurt society in general. For example, courts have refused to enforce conditions requiring a beneficiary to get a divorce. But restrictions on marriage—requiring that a beneficiary wait until a certain age or choose someone from a certain religion—are often upheld.
Thanks for tuning in! More interesting and anonymous stories to come!