Can you force your grandchild to take a drug test in order to receive an inheritance? Can you insist that your heirs use their trust funds to attend your alma mater? Can you stop your wife’s future husbands from squandering your money?

A recent Wall Street Journal article makes clear that the answer is usually “yes.” The article shares a number of examples of people who “reached back from the grave” to control their heirs.

Dead? You Can Still Call the Shots!

Most people have heard that Leona Helmsley left a large trust to care for her beloved dog after her death. Fewer people know that she also required her grandchildren to visit their father’s grave at least once a year to receive trust payments.

One person required an heir to show that he was of “sound mind, good moral character and temperate financial habits”. The heir qualified, and got his money, after submitting three years of his tax returns, a financial statement and a letter from his minister!

One family wanted to encourage charitable and volunteer work by its children. The trust matched an heir’s private sector paycheck one to one, public and charitable-sector pay four to one, and public-sector pay (like the Peace Crops) six to one. But the family didn’t describe what to do with the son who became a jazz musician – so he didn’t qualify for a payout at all.

Your Requests Will Likely Be Honored

Most of these details become public when the heirs bring a suit to clarify the trust requirements or to argue that they have met the requirements for a payout. In general, the law allows people to leave their assets as they see fit and will uphold even those requirements that seem silly. Almost 100 years ago, a Connecticut court upheld a rule that heirs had to spell the family name a certain way to in order to receive their inheritance.

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