Conditional Wills


Conditional will:
A conditional will is one which depends on the occurrence of some uncertain event before it becomes operative.

A conditional will is one that expressly provides that it shall be operative only upon the occurrence of a particular event. Unlike with clarifying ambiguities, parol evidence is not admissible to prove a condition that does not appear on the face of the will. See, e.g., In re Trager’s Estate, 108 N.E.2d 908 (Ill. 1952). Moreover, this condition must be more than just a motive for the testator to prepare the will.

EXAMPLE: Bridgett is about to embark on a trip to Nepal. She is nervous about whether she will return or not. Accordingly, Bridgett’s will provides: “I am going on an exotic trip to Nepal, and I may not ever return. If anything happens to me on the trip, here is how I want my property disposed of. . . .” Bridgett does return from her trip, but dies shortly thereafter. See, e.g., Eaton v. Brown, 193 U.S. 411 (1904). The Court in Eaton held that Bridgett’s language merely expressed her inducement for making a will. She was nervous about the trip and wanted to make sure she had a will so that her property was disposed of according to her wishes. Thus, the will was admissible to probate even though the testator died only after returning safely from her trip.

Although extrinsic evidence is not admissible to prove a condition that is not there, it is admissible to show whether the testator intended by conditional language to make an absolute or conditional will. See, e.g., Barber v. Barber, 368 Ill. 215 (Ill. 1938).